Washington: Human ancestors were making spears to hunt 500,000 years ago – 200,000 years earlier than previously thought, a study has revealed.
A collaborative study involving researchers at Arizona State University, the University of Toronto, and the University of Cape Town found the stone-tipped weapons at the South African archaeological site of Kathu Pan 1.
Attaching stone points to spears (known as “hafting”) was an important advance in hunting weaponry for early humans.
Hafted tools require more effort and foreplanning to manufacture, but a sharp stone point on the end of a spear can increase its killing power.
“There is a reason that modern bow-hunters tip their arrows with razor-sharp edges. These cutting tips are extremely lethal when compared to the effects from a sharpened stick. Early humans learned this fact earlier than previously thought,” Benjamin Schoville, a coauthor of this study affiliated with the Institute of Human Origins, a research center of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University said.
Hafted spear tips are common in Stone Age archaeological sites after 300,000 years ago.
This study shows that hafted spear tips were also used in the early Middle Pleistocene, a period associated with Homo heidelbergensis, the last common ancestor of Neandertals and modern humans.
“Rather than being invented twice, or by one group learning from the other, stone-tipped spear technology was in place much earlier,” Schoville said.
“Although both Neandertals and humans used stone-tipped spears, this is the first evidence that this technology originated prior to or near the divergence of these two species,” he added.
The study, ‘Evidence for Early Hafted Hunting Technology,’ is published in the journal Science.