Replicas of the 500,000-year-old stone points from Kathu Pan 1 were hafted onto wooden dowels with acacia resin and sinew, and plunged into antelope carcasses (Photo : Jayne Wilkins)
New evidence from a recently-published scientific study indicates that humans started crafting stone-tipped weapons 200,000 years earlier than previously believed.
A team of scientists that included researchers from Arizona State University, the University of Toronto, and the University of Cape Town have uncovered signs of hafting, or the art of attaching a stone tip to a spear, at an archaeological site in South Africa called Kathu Pan 1. Hafting was a significant advancement in human weaponry and hunting since it made spears more lethal and durable.
"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," said co-author of the study Benjamin Schoville, who is affiliated with the Institute of Human Origins, a research center of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University.
Hafting was previously attributed to Homo sapiens and Neanderthals around 300,000 years ago, but the new findings indicate that a shared ancestor between the two, Homo heidelbergensis, was practicing the craft 500,000 years ago.
"Rather than being invented twice, or by one group learning from the other, stone-tipped spear technology was in place much earlier," said Schoville. "Although both Neanderthals 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."
The dating of the recovered spear points was done by Naomi Porat from the Geological Survey of Israel, and Rainer Grün from the Australian National University.
You can find the study, titled "Evidence for Early Hafted Hunting Technology," in the journal Science.