Hollow Rock weapons indicate a high technical level of Neanderthals

Hollow Rock weapons indicate a high technical level of Neanderthals
Hollow Rock weapons indicate a high technical level of Neanderthals

Archaeologists found a clean-shaped leaf-shaped point that was attached to a complex spear with an effective organic binder.

Scientists from Germany and Belgium have studied an unusual 65,000-year-old spearhead found in the German Hohle Fels cave, where Neanderthals once lived. It is the oldest leaf-shaped spearhead known: Homo erectus and even many modern hunter-gatherer populations used wooden spears without any point. The manufacture of a composite spear with such a tip gave an advantage to the Neanderthals - the ancestors of modern Europeans and Asians. The corresponding article was published in the Archäologische Ausgrabungen in Baden-Württemberg, and a summary of it can be found on the website of the University of Tübingen.

Most of the tools of the Stone Age look so unusual for a modern person that he cannot correctly assess the real complexity of their manufacture. Meanwhile, the effectiveness of a typical Australian Aboriginal spear (with a sharpened wooden tip) against a really large and strong animal is often low. A blow with such a weapon rarely inflicts wounds that provoke profuse bleeding, and it, normally, does not penetrate deep enough. In Australia, this is not a problem, since all large and dangerous native species were exterminated by the ancestors of the Aborigines, who had more effective weapons.

The inhabitants of Stone Age Europe could not have effectively hunted or even defended themselves without more sophisticated systems. Earlier we already wrote that even the early Neanderthals (according to a number of classifications - the Heidelberg people) used a spear thrower to increase the damaging effect of wooden throwing spears. There were also known finds of spears with traces of stone arrowheads of moderate size. However, in some cases, they and javelins are insufficient. When attacking a lion, cave hyena or bear, such a spear cannot kill the beast before it kills a person. In such cases, you need a weapon like the traditional Russian spear - made of durable wood, with a wide leaf-shaped tip. Trying to get to the person holding such a spear, both the lion and the bear only sink deeper into the weapon, killing themselves. For a long time, archaeologists could not find traces of weapons of this type among Neanderthals.

Neanderthal spearhead found by archaeologists / © University of Tübingen

However, now German researchers have found a leaf-shaped spearhead with a minimum age of 65 thousand years. It was made from siliceous shale, a hard and brittle rock composed of thin layers. The craftsman who created the tip obtained the product from a uniform layer. The tip is only nine millimeters thick, 41 millimeters wide and 76 millimeters long. These are the classic proportions for a melee spear. The tip weighs only 28 grams and retains a fairly clean shape even after damage caused by use.

These tips of the Solutrean era (made by people of the modern type) are also made of siliceous shale (only yellowish) and measure 65 by 27 by seven millimeters. They are similar to their Neanderthal predecessors, although designed for javelins. However, they are at least three times younger / © AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY COLLECTION

Unfortunately, it is not entirely clear what the cord was made of. However, according to other finds, it is known that Neanderthals were able to spin cords from plant fibers. Previously, other scientific groups suggested that these cords were used in the manufacture of weapons (including throwing ones).

The question of what technical level the weapons of the Neanderthals were at is one of the most important in the study of their material culture and the reasons for their disappearance. The ability to make complex compound spears from a shaft, a specialized point, with glue and an anchorage cord indicates a high level of development for the species as a whole. During reconstructions, modern archaeologists have shown that the creation of well-shaped stone arrowheads is a complex and non-trivial task that requires thoughtful work from the manufacturer (taking into account the characteristics of specific source materials).

Outside view of the Hollow Rock. An unusual spearhead was found in the cave inside it / © University of Tübingen

Examination of the base of the handpiece revealed traces of plant-based glue - and traces of additional cord attachment. The glue and the cord wrapped together securely fixed the tip to the shaft. On it there are clear traces of impacts on something solid - and partial destruction. According to the traces, the user tried to re-sharpen the tip after it became dull from intense work. However, the fragility of the siliceous shale led to the fact that in the process it cracked - which is why the product was thrown onto the floor of the Hollow Rock Cave.

Excavation inside the Hollow Rock / © University of Tübingen

The extinction of the Neanderthals is close in time to the arrival of modern humans in Europe. The latter brought with them sharpened stone arrowheads, similar to the stone arrowheads of modern Bushmen. Their unusual shape may indicate that the devices were used to attack other people, and not at all animals. Today it is believed that the Neanderthals did not have bows. If so, Homo sapiens, who came to Europe from Africa 45 thousand years ago, could have a serious military-technical advantage over the natives of Europe.

Popular by topic