Yay for undergraduate honors theses!
“[Corey O’Driscoll] and a colleague knapped flint reproductions of spear and arrow points from the Middle Stone Age in Africa and attached them to wooden shafts. With a group of University of Queensland students, he ran 15 experiments, throwing replica spears and firing replica arrows with bows or a calibrated crossbow at lamb and cow carcasses. After boiling the carcasses or burying them for rapid defleshing by microbes and insects, O’Driscoll found 758 wounds on the bones, which he examined microscopically, and compared to 201 cut marks in an experimentally created reference collection of butchered animal bones.”
“He found “quite a difference between the butchering marks and projectile impact marks,” he says. His study revealed six types of distinctive projectile impact wounds, from drag marks to fracture marks and punctures. O’Driscoll also noted that most projectile impact marks were located on vertebrae or rib bones and that 17% percent of the marks overall—and 50% of the punctures—held microscopic bits of embedded stone from the flint points, due to the high velocity of impact. By contrast, none of the butchering marks contained such stone fragments, another key distinction.”
“These findings prompted O’Driscoll and the University of Queensland’s Jessica Thompson to take a new look at three bone specimens from large unidentified mammals—a rib and two vertebrae—from Pinnacle Point Cave in South Africa. Thompson had earlier detected embedded stone fragments in marks on these bones. Using O’Driscoll’s diagnostic criteria, the pair identified projectile impact marks on all three bones. Two dated to between 91,000 and 98,000 years ago—making them the oldest direct evidence of the use of projectile weapons, according to a paper presented at the Society for American Archaeology meeting in Honolulu in April. (O’Driscoll’s thesis will be published by the Australian Archaeological Association in June.) A third bone dated even earlier, between 153,000 and 174,000 years ago.”
When Did Humans Begin Hurling Spears?
by Heather Pringle on 17 May 2013, 5:55 PM