Israeli archaeologists have discovered what they believe is the earliest evidence of blood vengeance.
A human skull and the desiccated palm bones of a right hand dating to about 1,000 years ago were uncovered in a cave in the Jerusalem Hills during an archaeological survey conducted by Prof. Boaz Zissu of Bar-Ilan University.
The bones were subsequently identified by the Israel Antiquities Authority and the National Center for Forensic Medicine and Tel Aviv University as belonging to a man aged 25-40 years.
His skull cap shows signs of two traumatic injuries that eventually healed, while death apparently was caused by a sword.
The researchers point to a text from the beginning of the 20th century that tells the story of a case of revenge. A murderer presented his family with the skull and right hand of the victim – the same body parts found now in the cave.
They assume that because the skull and palm bones indicate the person in the cave was previously involved in violent incidents and died from a fatal blow, it was likely a case of blood vengeance.
“A morphological examination of the skull shows a great resemblance to the local Bedouin population, which apparently had a tradition of blood vengeance even before the birth of Islam,” the researchers conclude. “This is consistent with historical knowledge that in the period under discussion … the Jerusalem hills were inhabited by a Bedouin population that came from Jordan and northern Arabia.”
The findings were presented recently at the 44th Archaeological Congress at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, produced in cooperation with the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Israel Exploration Society.