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William Bates was on the bank of the Darling River, New South Wales, in 2014
when he discovered a skull sticking out of the soil. The specimen
was named Kaakutja, meaning “older brother” in Baakantji. Mr. Bates noticed a
gash on the right side of Kaakutja’s face from the eye all the way to the jaw,
he believed the gash to be caused by a metal
blade when Kaakutja was
attacked by European colonists. 1

site was excavated with the help of Michael Westaway a
paleoanthropologist from Griffith University in Queensland. The body
had received a ritual burial and was curled up on his right side facing upstream, Kaakutja was discovered to
be a male between 20 and 30 years of age. In addition to the gash across his
skull, damage to his arm and ribs was also discovered. 2

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Samples were sent to Rachel Wood, a geochemist from the Australian National University
for radiocarbon dating. The results of radiocarbon dating showed that Kaakutja
had lived between 1260 and 1280 CE meaning that he had died before colonists
from Europe reached the Australian continent. Optical analysis
tests were also done on sand grains lodged in Kaakutja’s skull
and sediment from the site of the burial. These tests suggested he was buried between 1305 and 1525 CE supporting
the findings that Kaakutja had
lived and died before the arrival of European colonists. This meant Kaakutja was
killed by another native of Australia with a traditional wooden weapon making
it the first archaeological discovery of its kind in Australia. 3

Aboriginal histories and literature were used to help in finding out what type
of weapon was used to kill Kaakutja.
The information gave two options; a type of wood club called a Lil-Lil and the Wonna, a
fighting boomerang like the commonly known returning boomerang but with a sharp
blade. 4

 The team was surprised by the similarities between the wounds that were
caused by a traditional wooden weapon and wounds caused by steel weapons. 5
This brings about the question of whether they discovered any evidence of wood
in Kaaktja’s wounds
to help prove that he was indeed killed with a traditional weapon such as a
boomerang. However, when Claire Smith an archaeologist from Flinders University
in Australia reviewed the study she agreed with the findings. 6 Therefore,
it makes it possible that Kaaktja was
the first person discovered to have been killed by a wooden weapon such as the
boomerang. The science was described in a way that someone with a rudimentary
understanding of Archaeology would have been able to understand the findings
and learn both about the way in which Kaakitja died
and more about Archaeology.  

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