Evidence for close-range hunting by last interglacial Neanderthals

Jovialis

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Abstract

Animal resources have been part of hominin diets since around 2.5 million years ago, with sharp-edged stone tools facilitating access to carcasses. How exactly hominins acquired animal prey and how hunting strategies varied through time and space is far from clear. The oldest possible hunting weapons known from the archaeological record are 300,000 to 400,000-year-old sharpened wooden staves. These may have been used as throwing and/or close-range thrusting spears, but actual data on how such objects were used are lacking, as unambiguous lesions caused by such weapon-like objects are unknown for most of human prehistory. Here, we report perforations observed on two fallow deer skeletons from Neumark-Nord, Germany, retrieved during excavations of 120,000-year-old lake shore deposits with abundant traces of Neanderthal presence. Detailed studies of the perforations, including micro-computed tomography imaging and ballistic experiments, demonstrate that they resulted from the close-range use of thrusting spears. Such confrontational ways of hunting require close cooperation between participants, and over time may have shaped important aspects of hominin biology and behaviour.


https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-018-0596-1

Behind a paywall, but here's an article:https://phys.org/news/2018-06-neanderthals-bands-speared-prey.html
 
Abstract

Animal resources have been part of hominin diets since around 2.5 million years ago, with sharp-edged stone tools facilitating access to carcasses. How exactly hominins acquired animal prey and how hunting strategies varied through time and space is far from clear. The oldest possible hunting weapons known from the archaeological record are 300,000 to 400,000-year-old sharpened wooden staves. These may have been used as throwing and/or close-range thrusting spears, but actual data on how such objects were used are lacking, as unambiguous lesions caused by such weapon-like objects are unknown for most of human prehistory. Here, we report perforations observed on two fallow deer skeletons from Neumark-Nord, Germany, retrieved during excavations of 120,000-year-old lake shore deposits with abundant traces of Neanderthal presence. Detailed studies of the perforations, including micro-computed tomography imaging and ballistic experiments, demonstrate that they resulted from the close-range use of thrusting spears. Such confrontational ways of hunting require close cooperation between participants, and over time may have shaped important aspects of hominin biology and behaviour.


https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-018-0596-1

Behind a paywall, but here's an article:https://phys.org/news/2018-06-neanderthals-bands-speared-prey.html

In the article they make a big point about the fact that this proves Neanderthals had intelligence.

"It was long thought that these evolutionary cousins—modern Europeans and Asians have about two percent of Neanderthal DNA—were not smart enough to compete, and lacked symbolic culture, a trait supposedly unique to modern humans...Such a confrontational way of hunting required careful planning and concealment, and close cooperation between individual hunters,"

I agree with that. However, it is a very risky business. The ability to accurately throw a spear to bring an animal down, and later the use of a bow and arrow would have been much more efficient.

So, I think the point still stands that they were not as advanced as homo sapiens sapiens and that this contributed to their disappearance.
 
In the article they make a big point about the fact that this proves Neanderthals had intelligence.

"It was long thought that these evolutionary cousins—modern Europeans and Asians have about two percent of Neanderthal DNA—were not smart enough to compete, and lacked symbolic culture, a trait supposedly unique to modern humans...Such a confrontational way of hunting required careful planning and concealment, and close cooperation between individual hunters,"

I agree with that. However, it is a very risky business. The ability to accurately throw a spear to bring an animal down, and later the use of a bow and arrow would have been much more efficient.

So, I think the point still stands that they were not as advanced as homo sapiens sapiens and that this contributed to their disappearance.

I agree, projectile weaponry as a means to bring down pray is a more sophisticated and less dangerous approach. Ultimately, projectile weapons are what homo sapiens have innovated the furthest, and primarily use today.
 
In the article they make a big point about the fact that this proves Neanderthals had intelligence.

"It was long thought that these evolutionary cousins—modern Europeans and Asians have about two percent of Neanderthal DNA—were not smart enough to compete, and lacked symbolic culture, a trait supposedly unique to modern humans...Such a confrontational way of hunting required careful planning and concealment, and close cooperation between individual hunters,"

I agree with that. However, it is a very risky business. The ability to accurately throw a spear to bring an animal down, and later the use of a bow and arrow would have been much more efficient.

So, I think the point still stands that they were not as advanced as homo sapiens sapiens and that this contributed to their disappearance.

But it is possible that they were not good at throwing due to their anatomy (not due to their brains).
 
Old news it appears, I remember reading about this subject before.

As for the whole spear advantage, it's an interesting theory, but if you look at the big picture it was more likely that the ability to swim and fish gave humans the advantage.

Humans had boats (as evidenced from humans populating Australia 50K years ago) and probably nets, fishing in turn provided humans with nutrients that allowed for very beneficial intelligence boosting mutations.
 
It's dang hard to get within thrusting range of a deer. If they were stabbing deer with spears then I imagine they were somehow trapping or corralling them, either with natural barriers or body barriers.

They mentioned a lake though and it's very easy to kill swimming deer. Oddly, they swim more than you would think necessary.
 

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