Some of the earliest modern humans in Europe used bows and arrows.

Some of the earliest modern humans in Europe used bows and arrows.

A web site briefly occupied by fashionable people in France is full of stone ideas, presumably used as arrowheads, suggesting that bows and arrows had been utilized in Europe a lot sooner than we expect.


February 22, 2023

Reproductions of flint-headed arrows just like these discovered on the Grotte Mandrin in France

Ludovic Slimak

Bows and arrows had been first utilized in Europe a lot sooner than we beforehand thought. Greater than 100 arrowheads have been present in a rock shelter that was briefly utilized by a bunch of contemporary people throughout an early raid on the Neanderthal area 54,000 years in the past.

“It is unbelievable that we have now so many,” he says. Lauren Metz on the College of Aix-Marseille in France.

Metz is a part of a workforce that excavated a rock shelter referred to as the Grotte Mandrin in southern France. This shelter was first utilized by Neanderthals greater than 80,000 years in the past, after which by fashionable people from round 45,000 years in the past – on the identical time that fashionable people displaced Neanderthals throughout Europe.

However final 12 months, the workforce reported that over a 40-year interval, about 54,000 years in the past, the Grotte Mandrin was used as a looking camp by a small group of contemporary people. Conclusive proof got here from a non-Neanderthal milk tooth.

Metz and colleagues reported that they’ve since discovered greater than a thousand small stone dots, about 1 or 2 centimeters lengthy, within the earth’s layers. About 100 of those had been recognized as damaged or full arrowheads, as there have been a number of indicators of influence harm just like these seen when the workforce used newly made stoneheads as arrowheads. Others can also be arrowheads, however researchers aren’t positive.

“The hints from the mandrin couldn’t be used apart from to information arrows,” he says. Marlize Lombard On the College of Johannesburg in South Africa, which was not concerned within the examine.

ancient arrowhead

Researcher Ludovic Slimak holds a flint from Grotte Mandrin

Philippe PSAILA

Many of the mandrin arrowheads are damaged. Metz says a few of them had been arrowheads damaged inside animals and delivered to camp in butchered meat. Many of those present indicators of burning from the fires.

Fragments hooked up to the shaft had been additionally discovered. Due to the work concerned in making arrow shafts, Metz says that when an arrowhead breaks, hunters will return the arrow to camp and change the arrowhead by discarding the damaged one.

Earlier than that, Metz says, the earliest definitive proof for bows and arrows in Europe got here from finds in Stellmoor, Germany, courting to round 10,000 years in the past. Nevertheless, fashionable people who changed Neanderthals about 45,000 years in the past had been thought to have bows and arrows.

These folks had been positively utilizing stone-tipped bullets; The issue is that with bigger stone ideas, there isn’t any option to inform in the event that they’re spearheads or arrowheads, Metz says. At some prehistoric websites in Europe, proof of arrowheads could have been ignored—archaeologists discarded smaller stone fragments as having no worth, he says.

Bows and arrows had been first developed in Africa a minimum of 70,000 years in the past. Lombard and others discovered stone and bone arrowheads at varied websites in South Africa courting again to this time. Fashionable people who moved from Africa could have unfold the know-how around the globe.

Metz says that though Neanderthals doubtless noticed springs in motion, they by no means developed them. They continued to make use of massive, stone-tipped spears that had been thrown straight or by hand, and subsequently required shut contact with their prey.

The workforce discovered no proof that arrows had been utilized in fight, however Metz says he is satisfied warfare was so prevalent in human societies that it occurred in prehistory as properly. He says we do not know what occurred to them, though it is attainable that this small group of contemporary people, regardless of having technological benefits just like the bow and arrow, was worn out by Neanderthals. “We don’t know,” he says.

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