Archeologists Identify Oldest Spear Tips

Posted November 15th, 2012 at 4:10 pm (UTC-5)
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There is new evidence that early human hunters were attaching stone points to the tips of their spears half a million years ago — 200,000 years earlier than previously thought.

A University of Toronto-led team of anthropologists examined 500,000-year-old stone points from a site in South Africa, and determined that they had been used as spear tips. The researchers recreated the ancient weapons and used a calibrated cross bow to shoot the replicas into an animal carcass.

Then, they compared the wear and damage on each set of stones. The prehistoric points showed the types of breaks that occur more commonly on spear tips than on stones used for other purposes, such as scraping and cutting.

The points were tied onto wooden spears, a process called hafting, which was an important advance in hunting weapons. Hafted spear tips are commonly found in 300,000-year-old Stone Age sites. The new study shows the technique was used in the early Middle Pleistocene, a period before Neanderthals and modern humans embarked on separate evolutionary paths.

The study is published in the journal Science.