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Ancient blades served as early weapons

African find reveals complex toolmaking 71,000 years ago

1:02pm, November 7, 2012
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Archery may be an ancient pastime. Humans started making the components for arrows at least 71,000 years ago, archaeologists report online November 7 in Nature.

Kyle Brown of the University of Cape Town in South Africa and his colleagues unearthed thin stone blades at South Africa’s Pinnacle Point cave that appear to be arrow tips. The tiny artifacts were made from a type of stone called silcrete that had first been heated to make the rock easier to chip. Blunt edges indicate that people had hafted the blades onto wooden shafts to use with a bow or spear-thrower.

The team found the arrow points — which predate the next oldest evidence of arrows by several thousand years — throughout cave sediments spanning 11,000 years. The timing not only reveals that humans had the intellect to make bows and arrows back then, but also that they could pass on complicated instructions to build multipart tools over hundreds of generations, the researchers say.


K.S. Brown et al. An early and enduring advanced technology originating 71,000 years ago in South Africa. Nature. Published online November 7, 2012. doi:10.1038/nature11660.
Further Reading

B. Bower. Water’s edge ancestors. Science News. Vol. 180, August 13, 2011, p. 22.
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B. Bower. Fire engineers of the Stone Age. Science News. Vol. 176, September 12, 2009, p. 15.
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