Variation in hunting weaponry for more than 300,000 years: A tip cross-sectional area study of Middle Stone Age points from southern Africa

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28 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Much has been written about Middle Stone Age hunting in southern Africa, yet there is no comprehensive overview for the development and use of stone-tipped hunting weapons. With this contribution, I use the tip cross-sectional area (TCSA) method to hypothesise about variation in weapon-assisted hunting strategies for the last 300,000 years or more. I assess and build onto previous hypotheses generated from similar approaches, introducing a larger sample from across the region. By also bolstering the standard TCSA ranges for javelin tips and stabbing/thrusting spear tips with more experimental and ethno-historical material, the method's interpretative robusticity is increased. The results indicate a general trend through time towards smaller weapon tips until reaching arrow-tip range during the MIS 4 glacial. Whereas light-weight javelins, similar to those used by African hunters today may have been in play since almost 200,000 years ago, it remains uncertain whether spearthrower-and-dart technology was ever used in southern Africa. Finally, I align the TCSA outcomes with climatic and demographic reconstructions and explain how human cognition interacts with technological adaptations such as the use of hunting weapons – demonstrating how the interplay between environment, demography, technology and cognition is integral to the development and understanding of Middle Stone Age weapon-assisted hunting strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107021
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Volume264
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2021

Keywords

  • Africa
  • Bow hunting
  • Cognitive evolution
  • Data analysis
  • Hunting technology
  • Javelin hunting
  • Lithics
  • Paleogeography
  • Pleistocene
  • Spearthrower-and-dart technology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Archeology (arts and humanities)
  • Archeology
  • Geology

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