This 800-Year-Old Man Was Probably Killed By A Boomerang


Tom Hale

Tom is a writer in London with a Master's degree in Journalism whose editorial work covers anything from health and the environment to technology and archaeology.

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The position and placement of Kaakutja's skeleton suggested he was buried with care. Used with permission by Michael Westaway

Archaeologists have found some strange injuries on an 800-year old skeleton in Australia, in what could be the earliest-known boomerang-related death.  

The remains were discovered along a river bank in Toorale National Park, New South Wales. They were found by a Baakantji Aboriginal man, who named the skeleton “Kaakutja”, which means “older brother” in his native language.


With the help of the Baakantji people, archaeologists and anthropologists helped piece together the story of Kaakutja. Their study is published in the October edition of the journal Antiquity.

Radiocarbon dating showed the remains were of a male who died at some point during the 13th century, between the age of 25 to 30. His body was covered in wounds, some healed and some fresh, suggesting that fighting and combat was a prominent feature of his everyday life. Furthermore, cave art from the surrounding area also appears to depict scenes of conflict and violence, although some have interpreted them as scenes of dance and ritual.

On a side note, by studying the contents of his stomach, they found out his last meal was a dish of crayfish and possum. Yum.

But strangest of all was the wound that appears to be his last. The 15-centimeter (6-inch) gash across his face would typically suggest an injury from a metal blade. However, this was 600 years before European settlers reached the area and introduced metal weaponry.


The trauma, shown going across the eye socket. Michael Westaway

Palaeoanthropologists sifted through accounts of Aboriginal weaponry from this period to figure out what caused the blow. The only weapons that could possibly pair up with the injury were either a “lil-lil”, an Aboriginal sharpened club, or a “wonna”, a sharpened fighting boomerang.

The considerable length of the head injury appears to be more consistent with a boomerang.The sharpened blade-like edge of a boomerang can be as long as 45 centimeters (18 inches). They are renowned as Aboriginal hunting weapons that, when thrown, are designed to fly through the air, spin around and return to the thrower. But the researchers also believe it could have been a weapon of war, used to curve around an enemy’s shield or strike from an unsuspecting angle.

Kaakutja has since been returned his final resting place through a traditional Baakantji ceremony. The Baakantji people have also played a key role in presenting the research to the World Archaeology Congress in Kyoto two weeks ago, lead researcher Michael Westaway told IFLScience.


Boomerangs used for recreational or display purposes, above, have much blunter edges than the tradition weapons. However, they work on the same principle. Gavran333/Shutterstock


  • tag
  • australia,

  • archeology,

  • skeleton,

  • weapon,

  • war,

  • boomerang,

  • conflict,

  • combat,

  • aboriginal