Earliest stone-tipped projectiles from the Ethiopian rift date to >279,000 years ago.

Bibliographic Collection: 
Publication Type: Journal Article
Authors: Sahle, Yonatan; Hutchings, W Karl; Braun, David R; Sealy, Judith C; Morgan, Leah E; Negash, Agazi; Atnafu, Balemwal
Year of Publication: 2013
Journal: PLoS One
Volume: 8
Issue: 11
Pagination: e78092
Date Published: 2013
Publication Language: eng
ISSN: 1932-6203
Keywords: Animals, Biological Evolution, Ethiopia, Fossils, Hominidae, Predatory Behavior, Tool Use Behavior, Weapons

Projectile weapons (i.e. those delivered from a distance) enhanced prehistoric hunting efficiency by enabling higher impact delivery and hunting of a broader range of animals while reducing confrontations with dangerous prey species. Projectiles therefore provided a significant advantage over thrusting spears. Composite projectile technologies are considered indicative of complex behavior and pivotal to the successful spread of Homo sapiens. Direct evidence for such projectiles is thus far unknown from >80,000 years ago. Data from velocity-dependent microfracture features, diagnostic damage patterns, and artifact shape reported here indicate that pointed stone artifacts from Ethiopia were used as projectile weapons (in the form of hafted javelin tips) as early as >279,000 years ago. In combination with the existing archaeological, fossil and genetic evidence, these data isolate eastern Africa as a source of modern cultures and biology.

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0078092
Alternate Journal: PLoS ONE