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Hunter-Gatherers 31,000 Years Ago Used Long-Distance Weaponry

Hunter-Gatherers Long-Distance Weaponry
Hunter-Gatherers 31,000 Years Ago Used Long-Distance Weaponry. Replicas of flint points used by hunter-gatherers 31,000 years ago. Credit: ULiège/TraceoLab

The recent study conducted at TraceoLab at the University of Liège has provided new insights into the early history of hunting techniques among hunter-gatherers who settled on the banks of the Haine River in today’s southern Belgium around thirty-one thousand years ago.

The researchers have made a significant discovery that challenges our understanding of prehistoric technology.

The materials excavated from the Maisières-Canal archaeological site have led to the groundbreaking revelation that these ancient hunter-gatherers were already using long-distance weaponry such as spear-throwers in their hunting practices.

The findings of this new study were published in the journal Scientific Reports.

What is a spear-thrower?

The spear-thrower is a weapon specifically for throwing long darts, which are like large arrows and more than two meters in length. With the assistance of spear-throwers, darts can fly as far as eighty meters, as reported by

Creating long-distance hunting tools had a huge impact on how humans evolved. It changed how they hunted, interacted with animals they hunted, and even what they ate and how they organized their groups.

The exact time when these tools were first made and how they spread has been a hot topic of debate among scientists for quite some time.

“Until now, the early weapons have been infamously hard to detect at archaeological sites because they were made of organic components that preserve rarely,” explains Justin Coppe, researcher at TraceoLab.

“Stone points that armed ancient projectiles and that are much more frequently encountered at archaeological excavations have been difficult to connect to particular weapons reliably,” Coppe added.

Confirming the use of long-distance weaponry and spear-throwers by hunter-gatherers

Recent claims about the early use of spear-throwers and bows in Europe and Africa have mainly relied on the size of projectile points to link them to these weapon systems.

However, research based on ethnographic reviews and experiments has raised questions about this idea. It turns out that the tips of arrows, darts, and spears can vary a lot in size, and their sizes can overlap.

The archaeologists at TraceoLab have come up with a fresh approach. They use a mix of ballistic analysis and fracture mechanics to interpret the marks on flint points better.

Noora Taipale, an FNRS research fellow at TraceoLab, explained that in a large study, they fired replicas of ancient projectiles using different weapons such as spears, bows, and spear-throwers.

Through a detailed study of the fractures on these stone points, they managed to determine how each weapon caused the points to break when they hit something, explained Noora Taipale.

Each weapon created unique marks on the stone points. This allowed archaeologists to connect the marks to what was found at archaeological sites. Researchers were able to conclude that the hunter-gatherers occupying the archaeological site used long-distance weaponry.

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