Neanderthal stone-tipped spear technology: an experimental and archaeological investigation.
La Porta, A
Date: 17 June 2019
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Doctor of Philosophy in Archaeology
The appearance of stone-tipped spear technology is a crucial milestone in human evolution. Stone-tipped spears are potentially one of the earliest composite hunting weapons to be manufactured and used by humans, involving enhancement of technological, cognitive and social skills. However, due to poor preservation conditions and a ...
The appearance of stone-tipped spear technology is a crucial milestone in human evolution. Stone-tipped spears are potentially one of the earliest composite hunting weapons to be manufactured and used by humans, involving enhancement of technological, cognitive and social skills. However, due to poor preservation conditions and a deficiency of experimental data the detection of stone-tipped spears in the archaeological record and the identification of their delivery systems are still difficult to achieve. The use of stone-tipped spears as distance throwing weapons, or conversely as close-range thrusting weapons is, therefore, an outstanding debate in Palaeolithic archaeology. Accordingly, this thesis presents an integrated experimental and archaeological investigation to distinguish hand-delivered throwing from hand-delivered thrusting stone-tipped spears, to investigate the development of stone-tipped spear technology among Neanderthal populations in the European Middle Palaeolithic. Systematic experiments extensively tested and compared (i) the performance of hand-delivered throwing and thrusting stone-tipped spears, using Levallois point replicas; and (ii) the resulting microscopic use-wear traces and breakage patterns formed on the throwing and thrusting spear projectiles. Trained and skilled human participants threw and thrust experimental stone-tipped spears into animal carcass targets. For each throw and thrust, several variables along with acceleration profiles and slow-motion video footage were recorded. Integrated results between ballistic parameters and use-wear analysis showed (i) that hand-delivered stone-tipped spears were effective hunting weapons not only as close-range thrusting weapons but also as distance throwing weapons; and (ii) that microscopic use-wear traces and patterns provide useful markers for distinguishing hand-delivered throwing from hand-delivered thrusting stone-tipped spear projectiles. The cross-comparison of the experimental dataset of this thesis with two Middle Palaeolithic stone assemblages from Abris du Maras (France) and Arma Delle Manie (Italy) assisted in establishing that Neanderthals were employing hand-delivered stone-tipped spears at least from MIS 4/beginning of MIS 3, and that throwing distance weapons and selective hunting strategies were likely widespread in the European Middle Palaeolithic.
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