Archeologists in Peru have uncovered the skeleton of what they conclude is the earliest known gunshot victim in the New World.
Digging in an Inca cemetery in the suburbs of Lima, they came on well-preserved remains of an individual with holes less than 2.5cm in diameter in the back and front of the skull. Forensic scientists in the US said the position of the round holes and some minuscule iron particles showed that the person most likely was shot and killed by a Spanish musket ball.
Ceramics and other artifacts in the 72 examined graves established the approximate time of the burials, archeologists said, and this indicated that these were casualties of combat between Inca warriors and Spanish invaders, who seized the Andean empire in 1532.
Conquistadors were equipped with some of the first effective firearms military historians say.
The National Geographic Society announced on Tuesday the discovery of the gunshot victim by Peruvian archeologists Guillermo Cock and Elena Goycochea.
In an interview on Monday, Cock said that at least 35 of the excavated skeletons bore evidence of violent injuries.
No similar evidence of a death by gunshot this early has been found elsewhere in the Americas, Cock said. The musket shot appeared to have entered the back of the man's skull, punching a piece of bone from outside to inside, and emerged through the face.
The graves attracted the attention of the excavators because they were shallow and the bodies appeared to have been interred hastily. They were not ritually wrapped in shrouds and placed in a crouched position facing northeast, as was customary in Inca burials.
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