Science

How our distant ancestors developed their weapons – sciences et Avenir

This article is extracted from No.204 of Indispensables de Sciences et Avenir, January / March 2021.

While giant mammals were legion on every continent until 125,000 years ago, almost all of them have disappeared as our ancestors progressed on Earth. Archaeological evidence confirms that these animals were well hunted.

We have to wait – 30,000 years, to see the spear and harpoon appear

A widespread practice long before the arrival of the sapiens: the oldest stone-tipped projectiles date back 500,000 years, the oldest wooden arrow, found in Germany, 400,000 years … Near the remains of woolly rhinoceros or deer, but it was not until the Gravetian, that is, 30,000 years, to see the spear and harpoon appear, with detachable tips often made of reindeer antler, then the predominant game. At the same time, the invention of the thruster made it possible to catapult throwing weapons stronger and farther, and kill mammoths or Siberian unicorns (giant rhinos).

Sometimes fragile weapons

In 2018, an international team led by Francesco d’Errico, a researcher at the Pacea laboratory (CNRS / University of Bordeaux), published an article in Antiquity magazine suggesting that in South Africa, sapiens used small bows and arrows to cut through the tip of the bone. to hunt 61,000 years ago. Before this work, the oldest known trace of such technology dated from the late Late Paleolithic in Europe, 10,000 years ago. According to the authors, not very powerful and fragile, these weapons were to be used mainly to hunt animals of modest size, with the aim of injuring the animal or administering poison.

By Vincent Bordenave

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