Hunting Began 500,000 Years Ago

By Staff Reporter on November 21, 2012 2:03 AM EST

Scientists say that early man started hunting with stone-tipped spears nearly a half a million years ago, much earlier than thought. Ancient stone-tipped spears found in a South African province have started a debate among scientists.

Earlier it was known that the Neanderthals used spears tipped with sharp stones in hunting, but  a study shows that it was used much before Neanderthals by another species of early men called 'Homo heidelbergensis', about 500,000 years ago.

Jayne Wilkins, a graduate student at the University of Toronto's anthropology department, in her paper published in the journal 'Science' sheds light on these discoveries and also emphasizes the planning and thought process that the early man employed to hunt using sharp stone tips attached to a spear. This tool process is called hafting.

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"This changes the way we think about early human adaptations and capacities before the origin of our own species. Neanderthals and humans did not independently invent the technology, but they inherited it from their last common ancestor," said Jayne Wilkins to the Los Angeles Times.

Researchers studied the stone artifacts found in South Africa's north cape province and recreated the prehistoric stone-tipped spear and tried their hands at throwing it around in a hunt like situation. The marks on the recreated spears were similar to those on the stones found in South Africa. By this, the researchers assert that the ancient marks on the stones were not of geological changes but they were marks that happened while hunting.

"The archaeological points have damage that is very similar to replica spear points used in our spearing experiment. This type of damage is not easily created through other processes.  It now looks like some of the traits that we associate with modern humans and our nearest relatives can be traced further back in our lineage," said Ms Wilkins, reports the Telegraph.

The scientists faced challenges in dating these tools as the latest technology could only trace back up to 50,000 years, so they had to rely on less precise methods.

Attaching a stone tip to a spear for hunting marks the advancement of early man's hunting and machinery. Hafting tools states the effort and planning that went in hunting with the sharp edged stones. Some of the earliest hafting tools were found in archeological sites dating back to 300,000 years.

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