Homo sapiens in Europe used bow-and-arrow 54,000 years ago: study
A recent study shows that archery has been practiced in Europe for more than 40,000 years.
Modern people used bows and arrows for the first time in Europe some 54,000 years ago, much earlier than previously thought, according to evidence found in a cave in southern France.
According to a study published on Wednesday in the journal Science Advances, archery has been practiced in Europe for more than 40,000 years.
There is evidence for the use of bows and arrows in Africa going back to 70,000 years. The discovery of bows and arrows in Northern European peat bogs, particularly Stellmoor in Germany, going back 10,000 to 12,000 years, provided the earliest known evidence of archery in Europe.
The new study was conducted at the Mandrin rock shelter in southern France, which has a view of the Rhone River's middle valley.
Archaeological remains from the Grotte Mandrin site, which was originally excavated in 1990, are found there in layers that span more than 80,000 years.
The latest study's authors have previously shown that Neanderthals and Homo sapiens alternated in living in the Mandrin cave.
One archaeological level, known as the "Layer E", represents an early incursion of Homo sapiens into Neanderthal territory, some 54,000 years ago.
The Layer E flint artifacts underwent a functional investigation by the researchers.
Tiny flint points were the key since other elements of archery technology such as fibers, leather, fiber, sinew, and resins are perishable and rarely preserved in European Paleolithic sites.
In their study, the scientists made replicas of the tiny flint points discovered in the cave, some of which are no larger than a US dime, and shot the imitation arrowheads at dead animals.
"We couldn't throw them at the animals any other way than with a bow because they were too tiny and too light to be efficient," said Laure Metz of Aix Marseille University, a co-author of the study along with Ludovic Slimak of the University of Toulouse.
"We had to use this kind of propulsion," Metz told AFP. "The only way that it was working was with a bow."
The researchers said that the flint tips' fractures and the scars on the items discovered in the cave provided irrefutable evidence that they had been used as arrowheads.
"Fractures for a lot of them, not all, were fractures of impact," Metz said. "And they are coming at the end of the point."
The Neanderthals and the Homo sapiens that lived in the cave are likely to have interacted at some point, according to Metz; however, "we don't know the nature of the meeting, whether it was amicably or not," she said.
But, she added, the Neanderthals who lived at the Mandrin site continued to use conventional weapons like thrust or hand-thrown spears and did not create any mechanically driven weaponry.
"The traditions and technologies mastered by these two populations were thus profoundly distinct, illustrating a remarkable objective technological advantage to modern populations during their expansion into the European continent," the researchers said.
According to Metz, the inhabitants of the cave would have typically hunted horses, bison, and deer, as evidenced by the discovery of animal bones inside.