SA spear tip made by earlier ancestor

2012-11-16 09:35
This photo shows Western Stemmed Projectiles discovered in the Paisley Caves. (Jim Barlow, University of Oregon, AP)

This photo shows Western Stemmed Projectiles discovered in the Paisley Caves. (Jim Barlow, University of Oregon, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

New York - Scientists say they've found evidence that stone tips for spears were made much earlier than thought, maybe even created by an earlier ancestor than has been believed.

Both Neanderthals and members of our own species, Homo sapiens, used stone tips - a significant development that made spears more effective, lethal hunting weapons.

The new findings from South Africa suggest that maybe they didn't invent that technology, but inherited it from their last shared ancestor, Homo heidelbergensis.

The researchers put the date of the South African stone tips at about half-a-million years ago - 200 000 years earlier than other research has suggested.

The new study involved analysing stone points, a bit less than 8cm long on average, that had been excavated about 30 years ago.


Scientists had previously estimated they were about 500 000 years old, but it wasn't clear whether they were used as spear tips or some other kind of tool, said Jayne Wilkins, a researcher at the University of Toronto and lead author of the new report.

She and her co-authors looked for evidence that the artefacts were spear tips, focusing on the way they were shaped and fractured. The pattern of damage along their edges fit in with what researchers found when they made copies of the artefacts and thrust them into the carcasses of antelopes.

From the age of the stone tips, the researchers suggest the technology may have been used by Homo heidelbergensis.

Sally McBrearty, an anthropology professor at the University of Connecticut who was not involved in the study, said it's clear that the South African artefacts are spear points. She said she sees no logical reason to doubt the trove is 500 000 years old, but she said she'd like to see some firmer proof.

"I would be happy to say that this is really half-a-million years old, I just want to be sure that it is," she said.

There's some room for doubt because of assumptions required in the dating technique and the geology of the South African site where the points were found, she said. Further sampling and analysis could firm up the evidence for the age, she said.
Read more on:    archaeology

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Millions of plastic particles in our food!

Scientists and researchers believe that almost five million tons of plastic is dumped in the oceans every year and it’s affecting our food.



Plastic on your plate
Prince George the green prince?
Lean, green, drifiting machine
One man's $1 million vision for an eco Africa

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts

Trying to keep time for your social commitments and friendships as well as taking care of work and health obligations can be more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.