An ancient hominid skull, first assigned to the species Homo rhodesiensis ("Rhodesian Man") and later Homo heidelbergensis, found by a Swiss miner Tom Zwiglaar in a limestone cave in Kabwe ("Broken Hill"), Zambia, in 1922, has intrigued out-of-place artifacts (ooparts) conspiracy theorists after it was observed that the skull appears to have a "bullet hole" on the left side of the cranium near the position of the ear.
But the problem with that claim is that scientific researchers have determined that the owner of the skull lived and died between 125,000 to 300,000 years ago, long before firearms were invented.
Speculations that the hole was caused by a very high-velocity projectile, such as a bullet fired from a rifle, received impetus after the skull of a prehistoric auroch or bison (wild cattle) with the same "bullet hole" feature in the forehead was found several thousands of miles away in the Eastern Siberian region of Yakuzia in Russia.
Ooparts conspiracy theorists claim that the Rhodesian Man's skull also features a shattered parietal plate on the right side consistent with the exit of a bullet that entered the skull from the left side. The fact that practically all photos of the skull available to the public show only the left side of the skull has been used to support the argument that mainstream researchers are trying to conceal the smoking gun evidence of injuries to a prehistoric skull caused by a firearm.
Conspiracy theorists also note the pattern of general silence in online mainstream sources -- including the Smithsonian Institute and the Natural History Museum of London -- about the anatomically significant hole on the left side of the skull despite the fact that photos show it clearly.
But ooparts conspiracy theorists elaborate the "bullet hole" conspiracy theory without providing evidence that the right side of the skull is shattered in a manner consistent with the exit of a high-velocity projectile. A shattered right cranium would be clinching evidence that a small high-velocity projectile caused the hole on the left side.
In an article published on the website Bad Archaeology, Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews denies the claim that parietal bone on the opposite side of the skull is shattered. The writer, who presumably has seen the right side of the skull, claims that it is "mostly intact." He admits, however, that part of the lower parietal bone is broken off but "not as a result of shattering."
Fitzpatrick-Matthews also claims that close examination of the edges of the hole reveals signs of healing and concludes that the "wound appears to have been a pathological, rather than a traumatic lesion, caused by an infection in the soft tissue over it."
However, it is believed that the prehistoric hominid individual suffered Rigg's disease and dental caries, the type of pathology that could have caused a neat hole in the head like a "bullet hole" is unspecified.
Conspiracy theorists question the claim that the damage to the right side of the Rhodesian Man's skull was not caused by "shattering." They also deny the infection theory by pointing to the auroch skull with a similar hole in the forehead, challenging researchers to explain what infection caused a "bullet hole" in the thick front part of the skull of a prehistoric bison.
Suggestions that the hole could have been caused by traditional weapons, such as a spear or javelin, have been convincingly ruled out.
A low-velocity projectile, such as a spear or a javelin, impacting on a skull produces radial cracks. These are fine, hairline fractures of the skull originating from the point of impact. Observation that the skull does not have striations around the hole effectively rules out the possibility that the hole was caused by a low-velocity projectile.
In his book Technology of the Gods: The Incredible Sciences of the Ancients, author David Hatcher Childress claims that a German forensics expert concluded after examining the hole that "the cranial damage to Rhodesian man's skull could not have been caused by anything but a bullet."
Rene Noorbergen points out in his book Secrets of The Lost Races that the features observed in the ancient skull are "seen in modern victims of head wounds received from shots from a high-powered rifle."
The suggestion that the skull acquired the "bullet hole" in modern times, long after the individual had died, is ruled out by the fact that the skull was recovered with the hole already in it from 60 feet below the surface. The alternative suggestion that the skull is not as old as scientific researchers think is also refuted not only by the fact that it was found deep below the surface, but also by the fact that it belonged clearly to an extinct species of hominids.
Rejecting the argument by mainstream researchers that the hole was caused by a chronic infection, conspiracy theorists have speculated on the question: Who shot Rhodesian man?
The Shields Gazette argues that the discovery of an ancient bison or auroch skull thousands of miles away in Russia with a similar "bullet hole" in the forehead suggests that hunters armed with rifles roamed the earth thousands of years ago before the onset of historic civilization as we know it.
To explain the absence of direct evidence of such cultures, ooparts conspiracy theorists are forced to argue that natural events, such as asteroid impacts, might have wiped out evidence of technologically advanced prehistoric cultures.
The view popular among oopart conspiracy theorists is that the "bullet holes" provide evidence of human or non-human prehistoric civilizations thousands or even millions of years old that were far more technologically advanced than ever suspected.
Some conspiracy theorists also speculate that time travelers from the future armed with firearms might have conducted hunting expeditions in the past.
"Someone from the future, carrying a firearm, traveled back into the past and engaged in some sort of trans-temporal hunting expedition."
The suggestion has led some to suggest tongue-in-cheek that we may discover in the future that the time travel habits of future human hunters contributed to major extinctions in geological history.