November 15, 2012

500 thousand year old spear tips

I'll add the abstract when I see it on the Science website.

Archaeologists identify spear tips used in hunting a half-million years ago
TORONTO, ON – A University of Toronto-led team of anthropologists has found evidence that human ancestors used stone-tipped weapons for hunting 500,000 years ago – 200,000 years earlier than previously thought. 
"This changes the way we think about early human adaptations and capacities before the origin of our own species," says Jayne Wilkins, a PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Toronto and lead author of a new study in Science. "Although both Neandertals and humans used stone-tipped spears, this is the first evidence that the technology originated prior to or near the divergence of these two species," says Wilkins. 
Wilkins and colleagues from Arizona State University and the University of Cape Town examined 500,000-year-old stone points from the South African archaeological site of Kathu Pan 1 and determined that they had functioned as spear tips.

Science 16 November 2012: Vol. 338 no. 6109 pp. 942-946 DOI: 10.1126/science.1227608

Evidence for Early Hafted Hunting Technology

Jayne Wilkins1 et al.


Hafting stone points to spears was an important advance in weaponry for early humans. Multiple lines of evidence indicate that ~500,000-year-old stone points from the archaeological site of Kathu Pan 1 (KP1), South Africa, functioned as spear tips. KP1 points exhibit fracture types diagnostic of impact. Modification near the base of some points is consistent with hafting. Experimental and metric data indicate that the points could function well as spear tips. Shape analysis demonstrates that the smaller retouched points are as symmetrical as larger retouched points, which fits expectations for spear tips. The distribution of edge damage is similar to that in an experimental sample of spear tips and is inconsistent with expectations for cutting or scraping tools. Thus, early humans were manufacturing hafted multicomponent tools ~200,000 years earlier than previously thought.



shenandoah said...

Those spear tips were probably used by actual Humans, Homo Sapiens (pre-AMH, of course). I'm sure Homo Sapiens is more ancient than Neanderthal or any other Human sub-species (ie Hybrids). Sounds like a very interesting paper.

eurologist said...

The finds are consistent with complex behavior of heidelbergensis documented at several European sites (and the Levant) that does not appear to be lesser than that of Neanderthals. Good to see that cranial similarities between the continents in the 800,000 - 300,000 ya time period are paralleled by behavioral similarities; the evidence is finally converging towards the view that modern humans are derived from the late African population of this wide-spread and formerly co-evolving group of ancient humans.