In a marked cemetery northwest of Lake Baikal, a skeleton was found, buried ceremoniously with a nephrite disk and four arrowheads, one of which was broken and found in the eye socket. An arrow in the eye? That's no accident.

After radiocarbon dating and analysis, it was determined the individual was a 35-40 year-old male from the early Bronze Age, between 2406 and 1981 B.C.

Unlike most hunter-gatherer societies of the Bronze Age, the people of the Baikal region of modern Siberia (Russia) respected their dead with formal graves. This particular specimen was so unique that bioarchaeologist Angela Lieverse traveled across the world just to bring it back to the Canadian Light Source synchrotron for examination.

Segmented tip digitally merged with photograph of the broken projectile point recovered from the left orbit; (A) ventral surface; (B) dorsal surface.  Source: Canadian Light Source, on Flickr.

“I’ve conducted research with the Baikal-Hokkaido Archaeology Project since the late 90s, and this specimen really intrigued me,” said Lieverse, associate professor at the University of Saskatchewan. “I’ve known about this skull for about 10 years and there are a couple things about it that are fascinating.”

The first, she said, is that this individual is missing the two front teeth on the lower jaw. And the second is that there is an obvious stone projectile tip embedded in the exact same spot of the mandible where the two incisors should be.

“We knew there was a projectile, we could see it, but we didn’t know if it occurred years before the individual died or if it happened around the same time as his death,” she added. “I suspected it happened earlier and had something to do with the very unusual missing teeth.”

Burial 48 skull and grave goods in situ in the grave pit. Note the broken projectile point lying flat on the floor of the left orbit, with its base oriented more or less anteriorly and its (broken) tip oriented more or less posteriorly, or into the eye. Source: Canadian Light Source, on Flickr.

Citation: A.R. Lieverse, I.V. Pratt, R.J. Schulting, D.M.L. Cooper, V.I. Bazaliiskii, A.W. Weber, Point taken: An unusual case of incisor agenesis and mandibular trauma in Early Bronze Age Siberia,International Journal of Paleopathology Volume 6, September 2014, Pages 53–59. DOI: 10.1016/j.ijpp.2014.04.004. Source: University of Saskatchewan