Throwing spears and shooting arrows: Preliminary results of a pilot neuroarchaeological study

Victoria M.E. Williams, Alban Burke, Marlize Lombard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


We present the preliminary outcomes of the first neuroarchaeological study that aims to generate comparable data regarding variation in levels of cognitive complexity during spear throwing vs arrow shooting with a bow. Stone Age weapon use can be traced through deep time. Studying aspects thereof might have implications for how we think about the evolution of the human brain and the thinking processes that make us human. A pilot EEG-ERP (electroencephalography, event-related potential) study was conducted to evaluate changes in the volume of neural energy that is required between simple, replicated spear-throwing and arrow-shooting tasks. When participants engaged in the experimental tasks, we recorded consistent, and statistically significant higher levels of activity in delta, theta, alpha and beta frequency bands across the parietal, frontal midline and orbitofrontal cortices of the human brain. Based on our sample size of only four individuals, these results are considered preliminary, but they indicate the potential for similar studies in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199-207
Number of pages9
JournalSouth African Archaeological Bulletin
Issue number200
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archeology (arts and humanities)
  • Archeology


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