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Oldest examples of hunting weapon uncovered in South Africa

Common ancestor of people and Neandertals may have flung stone-tipped shafts at animal prey

Scientists working in South Africa have unearthed the oldest-known spear tips, apparently made by a common ancestor of people and Neandertals around 500,000 years ago.

About 13 percent of more than 200 stone points found at a site called Kathu Pan 1 display modifications and damage consistent with having been attached to spear handles and hurled at animal prey such as springbok, say Jayne Wilkins, an anthropologist at the University of Toronto, and her colleagues.

“These were close-range weapons, either thrusting spears or spears thrown from fairly short distances,” Wilkins says.

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