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Homo Sapiens Used Bow and Arrow 40,000 years Earlier than Thought

Homo Sapiens in Europe Used Bow and Arrow Earlier
Homo Sapiens in Europe Used Bow and Arrow Earlier than Thought. Credit: Alan Levine / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

In a cave in the south of France, researchers have recently found artefacts that suggest Homo sapiens were the first in Europe to use bows and arrows as a kind of weaponry.

Archery was used in Europe almost 40,000 years earlier than was previously thought, according to these results, which were published in the journal Science Advances.

While the use of the bow and arrow in Africa dates back 70,000 years, the oldest previous evidence in Europe was found in Stellmoor, Germany, and dated back 10,000 to 12,000 years.

The researchers have been studying the Grotte Mandrin site, which was first excavated in 1990 and contained a multitude of archaeological remains dating back over 80,000 years.

The finding was found on a level referred to as “Layer E,” which is believed to have been inhabited by Homo sapiens about 54,000 years ago. This level is located between layers that were occupied by many Neanderthal occupants.

Functional Analysis Reveals Evidence of Arrowheads in Southern France Cave

Th flints that were discovered at the Grotte Mandrin site in Southern France were subjected to a functional study by researchers.

The researchers concluded that the flint points found in this layer were arrowheads because of their superior craftsmanship compared to the points and blades that were discovered in the adjacent layers.

Small flint tips were an essential piece of evidence, since other components of archery technology, like wood, fibers, leather, resins, and sinew, are ephemeral and are seldom preserved at European Paleolithic sites.

As part of the investigation, the researchers even recreated some of these points, which are hardly larger than a dime from the United States, and used them to shoot arrows at stuffed animals using a reproduction of an ancient bow.

“We couldn’t throw them at the animals any other way than with a bow because they were too tiny and too light to be efficient,” said Laure Metz of Aix Marseille University and the co-author of the study. “We had to use this kind of propulsion,” Metz told AFP.

Fractures on Flint Points Reveal Use as Arrowheads

Researchers who conducted a functional analysis of flint artefacts found in Southern France’s Grotte Mandrin cave have found evidence that they were used as arrowheads.

The researchers demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that the flint tips had been used as arrowheads by making a comparison between the fractures on the flint points and the scars observed on the objects discovered in the cave.

The researchers suggest that the Neanderthals and Homo sapiens who used the cave probably met at some point, although the nature of the meeting is unknown.

“A lot of the fractures, though not all, were fractures of impact,” says researcher Metz, adding that the fractures were found at the end of the point. This discovery reinforces the notion that Homo sapiens and Neanderthals were contemporaries and that their interactions were more complex than previously thought.

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