54,000-year-old stone points are the oldest evidence of bows and arrows in Europe

The study describes dozens of stone points, some tiny, that were used by homo sapiens as arrowheads about 54,000 years ago. (Image credit: Laure Metz/Ludovic Slimak)

A new study shows that ancient humans in Europe were making bows and arrows as early as 54,000 years ago, reinforcing the idea that these weapons were instrumental in spreading early modern humans across the continent.

Researchers found the telltale stone points in a rock shelter inhabited by early modern humans in what is now southern France about 54,000 years ago. So far, 12,000-year-old wooden artifacts in northern Europe have been the earliest concrete evidence of bow-and-arrow technology on the continent.

The stone points are the earliest evidence in Europe of the use of bows and arrows people of the early modern period and suggests that technology may have given this human lineage an advantage over Neanderthals in hunting prey, the researchers suggest in an article published Feb. 22 in the journal scientific advances (opens in new tab).

The tips of Grotte Mandrin are of different sizes. Researchers believe that the largest were used for spears and the smaller ones for arrowheads. (Image credit: Laure Metz/Ludovic Slimak)

Meanwhile, there is no evidence that Neanderthals ever used a bow and arrow (although it appears they did skilled at throwing javelins (opens in new tab)). And that could be one of the reasons why early modern humans supplanted Neanderthals across Europe around 40,000 years ago, according to research led by scientists in France, including Laura Metz (opens in new tab)Archaeologist at the University of Aix-Marseille, and Ludovic Slimak (opens in new tab)Cultural anthropologist at the University of Toulouse-Jean.

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