64,000 year-old arrows in South Africa?


Ancient South African arrow heads?

From the BBC:

26 August 2010 Last updated at 08:22 GMT

Oldest evidence of arrows found

By Victoria Gill
Science reporter, BBC News

Researchers in South Africa have revealed the earliest direct evidence of human-made arrows.

The scientists unearthed 64,000 year-old “stone points”, which they say were probably arrow heads.

Closer inspection of the ancient weapons revealed remnants of blood and bone that provided clues about how they were used.

The team reports its findings in the journal Antiquity.

The arrowheads were excavated from layers of ancient sediment in Sibudu Cave in South Africa. During the excavation, led by Professor Lyn Wadley from the University of the Witwatersrand, the team dug through layers deposited up to 100,000 years ago.

Marlize Lombard from the University of Johannesburg, who led the examination of the findings. She described her study as “stone age forensics”.

“We took the [points] directly from the site, in little [plastic] baggies, to the lab,” she told BBC News.

“Then I started the tedious work of analysing them [under the microscope], looking at the distribution patterns of blood and bone residues.”

Because of the shape of these “little geometric pieces”, Dr Lombard was able to see exactly where they had been impacted and damaged. This showed that they were very likely to have been the tips of projectiles – rather than sharp points on the end of hand-held spears.

The arrowheads also contained traces of glue – plant-based resin that the scientists think was used to fasten them on to a wooden shaft.

“The presence of glue implies that people were able to produce composite tools – tools where different elements produced from different materials are glued together to make a single artefact,” said Dr Lombard.

“This is an indicator of a cognitively demanding behaviour.”

The discovery pushes back the development of “bow and arrow technology” by at least 20,000 years.

Ancient engineering

Researchers are interested in early evidence of bows and arrows, as this type of weapons engineering shows the cognitive abilities of humans living at that time. …

Professor Chris Stringer from the Natural History Museum in London said the work added to the view that modern humans in Africa 60,000 years ago had begun to hunt in a “new way”.

Neanderthals and other early humans, he explained, were likely to have been “ambush predators”, who needed to get close to their prey in order to dispatch them.

Professor Stringer said: “This work further extends the advanced behaviours inferred for early modern people in Africa.”

“But the long gaps in the subsequent record of bows and arrows may mean that regular use of these weapons did not come until much later.

“Indeed, the concept of bows and arrows may even have had to be reinvented many millennia [later].”

Clues to the earliest known bow-and-arrow hunting outside Africa have been found. Possible arrowheads at a rainforest site in Sri Lanka date to 48,000 years ago. By Bruce Bower, June 12, 2020.

Traditionally, bows and arrows are supposed to mark the transition from the Palaeolithic to the Mesolithic, about 20,000 years ago.

Neanderthals supposedly did not even use spears for throwing, only for stabbing at short distance.

ScienceDaily (Sep. 21, 2010) — For decades scientists believed Neanderthals developed `modern’ tools and ornaments solely through contact with Homo sapiens, but new research from the University of Colorado Denver now shows these sturdy ancients could adapt, innovate and evolve technology on their own: here.

Tool-Making by Neanderthals: Did Neanderthals develop their own tools or did they copy tool use from humans: here.

100,000-year-old human fossil remains from East Asia suggest modern humans interbred with Neanderthals: here.

Europeans never had Neanderthal neighbours: here.

A possible Neanderthal burial ground suggests that they practiced funeral rituals and possessed symbolic thought before modern humans: here.

CT scans reveal that the brains of Neandertal babies had the same elongated shape as those of modern human babies. But whereas modern humans’ brains become rounder as they mature, Neandertals retained the elongated shape throughout their lives. Karen Hopkin reports: here.

Haplotype Study Says That Non-Africans Are Part Neanderthal – And Humans Interbred With Them: here.

Language May Have Helped Early Humans Spread Out of Africa: here.

Tortoise banquet: Remains of the oldest feast found: here.

It took our ancestors 2 million years to go from scraping meat off animal carcasses with sharp stone flakes to making more complex hand axes for hunting and fighting. What took them so long? Here.

Neanderthals: how needles and skins gave us the edge on our kissing cousins: here.

Neanderthals cooked their vegetables just like humans: study here.

Neanderthals’ food, not cooked vegetables? Here.

“Tool kit” may put Neanderthals in northern Russia—surviving later than thought: here.

I’ve been baffled by the spread of a non-story over the past couple days, about the supposed discovery of the oldest fossil of our species, doubling the age of our species from 200,000 years to 400,000 years and overturning the generally-accepted idea that Homo sapiens evolved in Africa: here.

What can be gleaned from a fragment of a 30,000- to 50,000-year-old finger? With highly sensitive genetic sequencing technology, researchers now claim to have spotted a new form of extinct humans that were neither Neandertals nor modern humans: here.

Neanderthal life spans similar to modern humans: here.

An international team of scientists made headlines last year when they used genetic evidence to show that an ancient people, once living in the Altai Mountains of southern Siberia, were distant cousins of the Neanderthals and contributed to the modern human genome before their extinction: here.

A very well-preserved 33,000 year old canine skull from a cave in the Siberian Altai mountains shows some of the earliest evidence of dog domestication ever found: here.

The “cradle of humanity” is thought to be located in Sub-Saharan Africa–meaning below the Sahara, the largest hot desert on earth. So how was humanity able to breach such an intimidating barrier to spread out across the rest of the world? Here.

The Artificial Ape: How Technology Changed the Course of Human Evolution, by Timothy Taylor. Palgrave Macmillion: 2010, 256 pages; book review here.

Modern humans may have emerged from Africa up to 50,000 years earlier than previously thought, a study suggests: here.

Recent research has begun to investigate the cognitive abilities of animals, such as their capacity to understand language, and is helping to identify the evolutionary developments made by human beings that began to distinguish them from apes: here.

A recently announced discovery of sophisticated stone tools at the Pinnacle Point site in South Africa pushes further back in time the evidence for the appearance of modern human intellectual capacities, to at least 71,000 years ago. The discovery helps reduce what has been seen as a perplexing temporal gap of over 100,000 years between the earliest fossil remains of anatomically modern humans and the first appearance in the archaeological record of evidence that these people possessed the capability for fully abstract, symbolic thought, which is the basis of modern human technology, social organization, and culture at the beginning of the Upper Paleolithic period: here.

17 thoughts on “64,000 year-old arrows in South Africa?

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