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article imageBow and arrow invented in Africa?

By Lee Labuschagne     Sep 7, 2010 in Science
Archaeologists from two South African universities have "found what is believed to be the earliest evidence of human-made stone-tipped arrows, 64 000-year-old stone tools – still with traces of blood and bone."
According to a MediaclubSouthAfrica report, this means that it pushes the development of bow-and-arrow technology back 20 000 years and throws light on humanity's cognitive development.
The finds were unearthed from layers of very old sediment in Sibundu Cave, a sandstone cliff cave in northern KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Marlize Lombard, a researcher and lecturer at the University of Johannesburg worked on the project with a team of researchers and scientists under the leadership of Lyn Wadley of the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits).
A bone point that could have been an arrow tip was also excavated from the site in 2008 by Lucinda Backwell and colleagues from Wits. Together with other evidence, pushes back the development of bow-and-arrow technology by at least 20 000 years. The team's findings were published in the latest issue of the journal Antiquity.
Closer inspection of the stone tools revealed remnants of blood, bone and other use-traces, that provided clues about how it were used, according to Lombard.
"The shape of the geometric pieces indicated where it had been impacted a nd damaged, and how they were hafted. This showed that the pieces were very likely to have been the tips of projectiles – rather than sharp points on the end of hand-held spears,” Lombard said, according to the UJ website.
"This showed that the pieces were very likely to have been the tips of projectiles – rather than sharp points on the end of hand-held spears."
The arrow heads also held traces of glue in the form of a plant-based resin that the scientists think was used to fasten them onto wooden or reed shafts.
"The presence of glue implies that people were able to produce composite tools – tools where different elements produced from different materials are glued together to make a single artefact," said Lombard.
The sophistication of the arrows sheds light on the development of human intelligence, scientists believe. According to Larry Barham from the University of Liverpool, "This is an indicator of a cognitively demanding behaviour."
Read more from the University of Johannesburg here, the University of the Witwatersrand here and MediaClubSA here.
More about Bow arrow, Archaeology, Stone age tools