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Narrowing Down When Humans Began Hurling Spears

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the give-it-a-throw dept.

Science 208

sciencehabit writes "Archaeologists have long debated when early humans began hurling stone-tipped spears and darts at large prey. By throwing a spear, instead of thrusting it, humans could hunt buffalo and other dangerous game from a safe distance, with less risk of a goring or mauling. But direct evidence of this hunting technique in early sites has been lacking. A new study of impact marks on the bones of ancient prey shows that such sophisticated killing techniques go back at least 90,000 years ago in Africa and offers a new method of determining how prehistoric hunters made their kills."

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Just Look For... (3, Funny)

sycodon (149926) | about a year ago | (#43775433)

...rocks with rules scratched into them regarding Spear Control.

Re:Just Look For... (5, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | about a year ago | (#43775953)

But the National Spear Association lobbied against controls. Even cave babies were allowed to own spears.

Re:Just Look For... (4, Funny)

sycodon (149926) | about a year ago | (#43776181)

That's because they wanted people to keep their spear disassembled when not in use. So when a Sabertoothed Tiger came into your cave, you would have had to ask it to wait while you tied the pointy rock to the end. And before you start, short pointy sticks are only good against other cavemen.

Re:Just Look For... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43776095)

Woog: "Hey Oog, people don't KILL, spears do, so stop using spears! Won't you think of the children?"

Re:Just Look For... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43776193)

Oog: "Hey Woog, spears don't kill people, spear chuckers kill people. Meat - it's what's for dinner!"

Re:Just Look For... (1)

fermion (181285) | about a year ago | (#43776499)

Sir, it was an accident. I stabbed her 5 times while cleaning my spear...

never taken seriously.

Brains are a funny thing (5, Insightful)

koan (80826) | about a year ago | (#43775485)

I'll bet if we could travel back in time and watch these creatures innovate we would have far more respect for their ingenuity in their time.
I'll bet they came up with solutions we wouldn't think of that were lost to time.

Re:Brains are a funny thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43775559)

The invention of music [youtube.com] is particularly interesting. Truly fascinating stuff.

Re:Brains are a funny thing (1)

Scarletdown (886459) | about a year ago | (#43776211)

The invention of music [youtube.com] is particularly interesting. Truly fascinating stuff.

I haven't looked at the link yet, but I can predict what it is...

Nininininininini... A clip from History of the World.

Now to do a soothe for you.

Nininininininini... You are going to travel...
Nininininininini... You, sir, are going to Rome!

Re:Brains are a funny thing (4, Informative)

sycodon (149926) | about a year ago | (#43775605)

The Romain Empire used concrete extensively, even hydraulic cement (cures under water).

After the Empire fell, they went back to building with rocks.

Re:Brains are a funny thing (5, Funny)

punman (412350) | about a year ago | (#43775919)

The Romain Empire used concrete extensively, even hydraulic cement (cures under water).

After the Empire fell, they went back to building with rocks.

Lettuce hear more of this Romaine empire ...

Re:Brains are a funny thing (1)

Gareth Iwan Fairclough (2831535) | about a year ago | (#43776137)

Ramaine...wasn't she a red shirt in star trek?

Re:Brains are a funny thing (4, Interesting)

Antipater (2053064) | about a year ago | (#43776003)

The Incas created structures that are nigh-earthquakeproof, using nothing but rocks (no mortar, cement, or other binding agents). Their cutting and grinding was so precise that when the joints were assembled, a blade of grass could not be inserted at any point.

Never underestimate the power of rocks.

Re:Brains are a funny thing (0)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#43776293)

that and what romans did was 90 000 years later than this speculated spear use though.

I'd speculate that humans used pikes as soon as they found 'em and threw 'em if it suited the situation.. it's not exactly rocket science.

Re:Brains are a funny thing (2)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about a year ago | (#43776559)

In retrospect, how many of us can still actually throw a spear to a level where it can hit anything? :P

Re:Brains are a funny thing (3, Insightful)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about a year ago | (#43776585)

I'd speculate that humans used pikes as soon as they found 'em and threw 'em if it suited the situation.. it's not exactly rocket science.

A pike is 20 feet long (6 meters for you SI types), and not something that can be thrown effectively by anyone shorter than about 15 feet (4.5 meters).

Even knowing it can be done, actually getting a spear to fly point first is a non-trivial accomplishment.

Doing it for the first time ever? It may not be rocket science, but it's pretty damn close.

In other words, just because an idea is old to YOU doesn't mean it was easy for that first guy who ever had it...

Re:Brains are a funny thing (1)

Trax3001BBS (2368736) | about a year ago | (#43776611)

I'd speculate that humans used pikes as soon as they found 'em and threw 'em if it suited the situation.. it's not exactly rocket science.

My thoughts as well, FTA "By throwing a spear, instead of thrusting it,"
I would think after the prey moved out of thrusting range to toss or throw would be the next step (impulse).

Re:Brains are a funny thing (2)

riverat1 (1048260) | about a year ago | (#43776749)

it's not exactly rocket science.

Well actually there are some elements of rocket science in spear throwing. It's just that the method of propelling them has changed.

Re:Brains are a funny thing (1)

nospam007 (722110) | about a year ago | (#43776389)

"Never underestimate the power of rocks."

Shameless pro-troll propaganda, Detritus.

That's a perpetuated myth (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43776391)

Firstly they used stone, bronze and copper tool (copper hardened thru another element , can't recall what it was maybe nitrite). Secondely they used mortar for some architecture too. Thirdly, you can very well see the seams at many of the building and even see thru. Heck even puma punku you can see the place between the stone, the stones marking, and it isn't even 90Â.

I am not saying that to lower the feat of architecture, just that the technic used there aren't as advanced as you might think for 600 AD for example and there is a lot of mythic which is not warranted (only stone tool / blade of grass) (by 300 AD in europe people were already building churchs in complex architecture with cut stone and extants like : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panagia_Ekatontapiliani [wikipedia.org] )

That said your main point on stone being an incredible building construct tool stand.

Re:That's a perpetuated myth (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#43776637)

copper hardened thru another element , can't recall what it was maybe nitrite

That might have been an alloy of copper with arsenic. Also, I wonder how much time it took them to build those structures. Given enough people and time, you can do anything. If you're interested in how many new houses you can build for new families with the smallest number of construction workers, chances are that working granite for dry masonry with diorite is not exactly the preferred technique.

Re:That's a perpetuated myth (1)

gadget junkie (618542) | about a year ago | (#43776991)

copper hardened thru another element , can't recall what it was maybe nitrite

That might have been an alloy of copper with arsenic. Also, I wonder how much time it took them to build those structures. Given enough people and time, you can do anything. If you're interested in how many new houses you can build for new families with the smallest number of construction workers, chances are that working granite for dry masonry with diorite is not exactly the preferred technique.

AFAIK, they found arsenic on the body of the mummy of the Similaun, because it was used in the process to build copper tools. he had a small copper hatchet.

Re:That's a perpetuated myth (2)

cusco (717999) | about a year ago | (#43776957)

No, to carve rock they used rock, metal tools were used for wood, ceramic, and other softer materials. The Inca did not use mortar, they didn't have the appropriate resources (there was almost no limestone in the entire Empire). The Maya used cement in some of their construction, as did the Aztecs. While the Inca stone cutting technique itself isn't complex (essentially beat a hard rock against a softer rock, repeat) the fitting technology was amazing. Go look at the larger rocks at Sacsayhuman, the largest single stones ever used in human construction. There is one on the lowest level that is on an outside corner which borders around a dozen stones, and you can't fit a knife blade between any of them (I checked). Downtown Cusco, the church of Santo Domingo has been destroyed several times by the earthquakes that shake the city up every couple of decades, while dust just rises out of the joints in the Inca temple of Qorikancha that it's built on, and the stones settle back into place. Puma Punko, a minor site, used a different quality of stonework, and probably a different builder since its foundation was not as good.

Re:Brains are a funny thing (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43776245)

The Romain Empire

So that's why it's called caesar salad

Damascus steel was lost for centuries (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43775639)

It is said it could cleanly cut through a falling silk scarf.

I thought at first that the manufacturing process was lost because it was kept a trade secret. However, this paper [tms.org] finds that the superior properties of the steel come from impurities that were present in the original iron mine. When iron from a different mine used used, the steelsmiths were unable to reproduce the original's properties. Within a generation, production was entirely abandoned.

Re:Damascus steel was lost for centuries (2)

alen (225700) | about a year ago | (#43775763)

yeah, but did it shine like Valyrian steel?

Re:Damascus steel was lost for centuries (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#43775791)

The history of ironworking in general is a total mess: Not only were the best techniques(at any given time and place) some combination of trade secrets and National Security Stuff, leading to dubious recordkeeping, iron and most iron alloys corrode enthusiastically, often leaving archeologists to stare at an intriguing-looking rust stain and puzzle from there.

Then(as in the case of Damascus steel, as you mention) the properties of iron(actually a pretty lousy material, pure) change quite dramatically with the addition of relatively small amounts of various alloying agents, frequently ones that weren't even identified as distinct substances(much less 'identified' as 'elements') until centuries later, in addition to being sensitive to heating/cooling parameters and any other treatments affecting crystal structure.

There were improvements over time, of course; but until fairly recently, with modern metallurgy and chemistry, even a good-faith effort by the original craftsman to share his technique would likely leave us with considerable puzzling left to do.

Re:Damascus steel was lost for centuries (2)

pwizard2 (920421) | about a year ago | (#43775995)

Having a sword so sharp that it could cut through a falling scarf seems rather impractical because it would be impossible to maintain that sharp edge for long under regular use (no matter how good the steel is).

Re:Damascus steel was lost for centuries (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about a year ago | (#43776451)

Doesn't matter, you get the steel as sharp as it can get. The worst that can happen is it takes longer to get blunt.

Re:Damascus steel was lost for centuries (2)

pwizard2 (920421) | about a year ago | (#43776599)

Steel has its limits. If the edge is too thin to handle the forces it gets subjected to, it buckles, chips, and curls instead of simply blunting. If the edge hits a shield or your enemy's armor, it is automatically ruined. It would take a highly-skilled smith to fix that kind of damage and even then the blade wouldn't be as good as it was before because of metal fatigue. This is why you never go edge-to-edge with a sword!

Super-sharp edges are for precision work. If you're using a hack-and-slash weapon, you want a thick bevel because it will still tear through your enemy with minimal damage to itself if you put enough force behind it. Adding a serrated edge would probably be even more effective against soft targets because it tears out chunks and causes more trauma. Grinding a new edge would be trivial as the teeth wear down.

Re:Damascus steel was lost for centuries (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about a year ago | (#43776687)

If you're using a hack-and-slash weapon, you want a thick bevel because it will still tear through your enemy with minimal damage to itself if you put enough force behind it.

I think it was Honest Abe who said, "if I had six hours to cut down a tree, I'd spend four hours sharpening the axe".

You make your edge as sharp as you can because if you don't your enemy who has a sharper edge will kill you first. A lot about hand to hand combat with edged weapons has been lost to time, but one thing that hasn't is that you aren't trying to protect your sword, you're trying to protect your life.

Serrated edges never gained popularity because they get caught on or in what they are trying to cut through, great for sawing, terrible for slashing or stabbing. Don't take my word for it, slash a steak with a breadknife and a hacksaw and see which does more damage.

Re:Damascus steel was lost for centuries (1)

pwizard2 (920421) | about a year ago | (#43776757)

If what you say is true, then why do most axes (even new ones) have a coarse bevel? A mace would be a far better choice than a sword if your foe is wearing armor. Why slash your enemy to death when you can crush his bones and cause him to bleed out instead?

Re:Damascus steel was lost for centuries (1)

pwizard2 (920421) | about a year ago | (#43776777)

cause him to bleed out instead

I meant to say bleed out internally instead.

Re:Damascus steel was lost for centuries (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about a year ago | (#43776835)

It's not just me saying it, Honest Abe too: http://thinkexist.com/quotation/give_me_six_hours_to_chop_down_a_tree_and_i_will/221234.html [thinkexist.com]

Believe it or not, it's the truth. Having not purchased a large selection of axes recently I can't speak to how sharp they are on average, but the last one I bought was very sharp indeed. I sharpened it up further before using it. A blunt axe is an accident waiting to happen.

A mace is a decent weapon against armour. But there are entire fighting styles based around slashing attacks on armoured enemies, so I mean does this really bear further argument.

Re:Damascus steel was lost for centuries (2)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#43776675)

I thought that the kinds of steel that are difficult to blunt (= take longer to get dull) are also difficult to sharpen. As in, I have a kitchen knife that is fairly easy to shapen into a very keen edge, but it also gets dull fairly quickly and needs to be sharpened quite frequently.

Re:Damascus steel was lost for centuries (2)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about a year ago | (#43776745)

It's not important how easy it is to get sharp, all that matters is you get it as sharp as it will go and use it. If you have to spend two hours sharpening a sword that is good for ten whacks in battle, that's better than a sword you spend half an hour sharpening that stays sharp for three whacks.

Re:Damascus steel was lost for centuries (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#43776823)

What I meant is that such a long-lasting blade probably will be difficult to hone into a falling-silk-cutting edge. But then again, you don't do that often in battle, do you?

Re:Damascus steel was lost for centuries (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about a year ago | (#43776877)

I believe there were some reports of warriors not only sharpening but straightening their weapons mid-battle, but yes on principle you don't want to have to break out the whetstone as the second wave of berserkers descends on you.

Re:Brains are a funny thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43775645)

We have a fairly good idea, and innovation was extremely slow and limited in pre-history.

Re:Brains are a funny thing (3, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about a year ago | (#43775909)

I suspect it would be more accurate to say that innovation was extremely inconsistent pre-history. I haven't any doubt that many, many things were invented dozens or hundreds of times, only to be lost when the guy died, or his son decided not to carry on the tradition, or some disaster fell that made them abandon specialization. Once you start writing stuff down, in a way that can be shared with others and understood generations later, you don't have everyone starting from scratch every time something goes wrong any more. You start to build the hill that becomes the mound that becomes the mountain that is our present knowledge of the world.

Re:Brains are a funny thing (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about a year ago | (#43775709)

I think biologically they were little different from ourselves, so they were less 'creatures' than 'people'.

Re:Brains are a funny thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43775755)

people are creatures

Re:Brains are a funny thing (1)

timeOday (582209) | about a year ago | (#43776033)

But environment has a huge influence over biology. Think of a goldfish floating around in a bowl on your kitchen countertop. Now look at these babies [bizarbin.com] . I think that is a good analogy for the stimulating effect of environment on the modern mind. Think of how hard it was for the first europeans in the west to recognize the natives as fully human. I realize the conventional wisdom is that these europeans were practically deranged by prejudice. But it is also true that, due to circumstances, the natives had an extremely impoverished range of experiences and knowledge, relatively speaking. It is hard to understand how the same brain that considered throwing a spear to be inventive could later travel to the moon, with little biological change in between, but that shows how enormous is the effect of environment (to include culture, literacy, trade, etc).

Re:Brains are a funny thing (1)

houghi (78078) | about a year ago | (#43775949)

Our ancestors will not have that problem. They will be reminded by copyrights, patents and trademarks

Re:Brains are a funny thing (0, Troll)

hairyfeet (841228) | about a year ago | (#43776087)

What always fascinated me about history is how we would go through cycles when it came to tech, it seems we would advance to a certain point, some religion would come along and burn everything that didn't have (insert name of Deity) on it, the tech would be lost, only for us to slowly build ourselves back up.

I mean look at ancient Rome and Greece, you had theater, take out, taxis that charged by distance, steam power (mainly used for toys and tricks because slaves were cheaper) and they even used lithium for mental problems by sending them to the baths which had lithium dissolved in the water.

Sadly though as we have seen time and time again all it takes is the rise of a religion to wipe out centuries of tech, look at what Christianity did to the Roman Empire or what Islam did to the Arab world which frankly hasn't recovered to this very day. Neil Degrasse Tyson in one of his lectures points out how much of our advanced mathematics and astronomy came from the Arab world only for all innovation there to be wiped out in less than a century thanks to one of the mullahs declaring advanced math was "eeeevil!", probably because he couldn't understand it.

Re:Brains are a funny thing (4, Interesting)

ImprovOmega (744717) | about a year ago | (#43776231)

Honestly that has a lot less to do with religion than people being dicks to each other. Your math hating mullah for example was just a dick protecting his own power from the perceived threat of tech wrenching it from him. Short sighted and stupid? Yes. The fault of religion? No.

The problem was that information used to be exceedingly difficult to pass on. If something didn't have immediate practical use it was discarded. The steam toys of the Greeks were chucked when their leisurely (relatively speaking) lifestyle couldn't be sustained anymore. Ever since the invention of the printing press though you have an explosion in cheap mass-producible information. This has only gotten cheaper in the digital computing world of the information age. Now we only have to discover something once and it's locked down forever. How many cavemen had to discover spears independently before it became widespread? Fire? Bronze? Ironworking? The archway? Heck, even calculus was discovered twice and that was fairly recently!

Nowadays a researcher in Russia can publish his work and everyone in that field can know about it in seconds. Processes and discoveries are passed on in exacting detail. We should never again have to endure another dark ages with our current information sharing abilities.

Re:Brains are a funny thing (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about a year ago | (#43776635)

Nowadays a researcher in Russia can publish his work and everyone in that field can know about it in seconds. Processes and discoveries are passed on in exacting detail. We should never again have to endure another dark ages with our current information sharing abilities.

I pretty much agree.

But (there's always a but) it seems to me we might, just possibly, get much the same effect from information overload - 500 worthwhile papers per year in your specialty may be something you can keep up with. But what happens when there are 500,000 worthwhile papers in your chosen field every year?

Re:Brains are a funny thing (1)

Cro Magnon (467622) | about a year ago | (#43776713)

A bigger problem is when you have to find 500 worthwhile papers through the 499,500 crap papers in your chosen field.

Re:Brains are a funny thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43776963)

+1, "I Just Went Through That Exact Process and Agree With You Whole-Heartedly"

or

+1, "I Can't Believe Some of These Papers Get Funding or Published Because of How Utterly Incremental They Are, and Worse, the Incremental Papers Always Have Grandiose-Sounding Titles"

Re:Brains are a funny thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43776987)

The number of fields will grow and specializations will grow more narrow. It wasn't so long ago when you could be a 'Jack of all trades' now it is impressive to be in two fields simultaneously.

Re:Brains are a funny thing (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43776921)

Heck, even calculus was discovered twice and that was fairly recently!

Three times if you count that bio paper last year.

Re:Brains are a funny thing (1)

tsotha (720379) | about a year ago | (#43776861)

"creatures"?

And also, (3, Funny)

M0j0_j0j0 (1250800) | about a year ago | (#43775507)

Archaeologists also found evidence that the main damage was on creatures skulls , which led them to the conclusion: Aimbot!!!

Re:And also, (1)

chill (34294) | about a year ago | (#43775719)

My thoughts exactly. Look for the cave paintings of the mammoth with a spear in the head and a "BOOM! Headshot!" comment etched.

Keep an eye out for all the "Noob! You stole my kill!" comments below it as well.

Re:And also, (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43776139)

<spoilsport alert>

Nice joke, but TFA says they aimed for the ribs. Apparently cave men 90,000 years ago were smarter than you; think about it a second. Spears don't easily go through bone, but go through flesh easily. Not much chance your spear will penetrate a skull, good chance it will go through ribs and hit a vital organ.

Mis-read the point of "Narrowing" (1)

gpronger (1142181) | about a year ago | (#43775527)

So, when I read the title, somehow I thought the point was going to be that once we started throwing spears at one another the race got narrower to be less of a target.

Interesting angle, but it would be hard to prove from fossil records. Maybe though, it's why we have an engrained preference for the skinny! Our progeny will be a poorer target!

Re:Mis-read the point of "Narrowing" (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43775589)

We don't have an engrained preference for the skinny. The "preference for the skinny" is actually only an extremely recent cultural phenomenon.

Re:Mis-read the point of "Narrowing" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43775611)

we have an engrained preference for the skinny!

"Engrained"? What?

Re:Mis-read the point of "Narrowing" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43775631)

More likely, due to almost never encountering "overweight" people because the necessary abundance of food was ultra-rare during the formation of hominid emotional/instinctual "hard-wiring", the aversion is probably due to an overweight body being reacted to as a birth defect.

Re:Mis-read the point of "Narrowing" (4, Informative)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | about a year ago | (#43775655)

Maybe though, it's why we have an engrained preference for the skinny!

I doubt you mean skinny like the sacks of antlers they call super models, on the other end there are cultures that think people who have a body shape like a beach ball are ideal. There have been several studies I have seen that in general indicate that a more curvy body shape for women is preferred by men. There is something to be said about having some fat and still looking healthy that was probably selected for in prehistoric times since that would be a good indication that you could provide for your self and were of good health.

OP was trying to make a joke (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about a year ago | (#43775899)

The OP was trying to make a joke, but on Slashdot one gets a lot of corrections.

Re:OP was trying to make a joke (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | about a year ago | (#43775959)

I got the joke but I am just too damn analytical, besides I like to poke fun at western society's obsessiveness with the ultra skinny.

Re:OP was trying to make a joke (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about a year ago | (#43776369)

The OP is right though about them being harder to hit targets, but only before people upgraded from spears to grenades.

The Thagomizer (2)

wcrowe (94389) | about a year ago | (#43775569)

I am reminded of the Thagomizer [mentalfloss.com] .

As dangerous as hunting large prey was, I imagine it did not take long to go from attaching a sharp rock to the end of a long stick, to throwing the long stick. When facing "the Thagomizer" the mental leap probably occurred in about a minute :-)

Re:The Thagomizer (3, Informative)

SJHillman (1966756) | about a year ago | (#43775607)

Throwing a spear takes some practice to be at all effective with it, especially at any sort of range when facing something that could either escape and make you starve, or kill you so you'd never have to worry about starving again. It's not like a rock where you can get reasonable aim with a few practice throws, especially a spear large enough to take down big game using a stone or flint tip.

Re:The Thagomizer (2)

SJHillman (1966756) | about a year ago | (#43775615)

Oh, and there's also the fact that once you throw the spear, you're unarmed if you miss and the thing charges.

Re:The Thagomizer (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43776021)

Oh, and there's also the fact that once you throw the spear, you're unarmed if you miss and the thing charges.

You can have more than one spear and large game would not be hunted solo. The problem with spear throwing is you've got a good chance at ruining your stone tip. Those are expensive to make in time and resources. You'll note in the article that even a successful hit dulled the stone (evidence of stone fragments in the bone), but the people carving up the animals were careful not to dull those stone knives.

Re:The Thagomizer (1)

flayzernax (1060680) | about a year ago | (#43776171)

Not all animals would charge, especially after being wounded. Not going to say that I would test my theory on a moose or a buffallo. But you can spear a dear (tehee) with some reliability and watch them run as they bleed out if you hit something good.

Re:The Thagomizer (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about a year ago | (#43776683)

if you miss and the thing charges.

Not all animals would charge, especially after being wounded.

Note the "if you miss" part.

Hint: if you miss, the animal won't be wounded.

Note that even a "non-lethal" wound can be enough to bring the animal down...eventually. And I imagine a group of hunters chasing mammoth are going to have a bit more patience than your average person today. Ooh, butterfly!

Re:The Thagomizer (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#43775833)

There are also some not-immediately-obvious additional technologies [wikipedia.org] which make spears substantially more effective.

Re:The Thagomizer (1)

tsotha (720379) | about a year ago | (#43776935)

Yeah I would think just throwing a pointed stick is a pretty ineffective strategy. But using another stick to give yourself a little leverage, along with bone tips instead of stone, makes it a pretty deadly weapon.

The atlatl, of course, is in a class by itself. That's an awesome piece of engineering.

Re:The Thagomizer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43776205)

Another problem with spear throwing is that you need just the right weight to get the point in. When you're holding the spear, you only need a shaft strong enough not to break, and a point sharp enough to get into the flesh. When you're throwing, a point that's too dull wont' get in. A heavier shaft will give it more momentum, but probably not enough to make it stick. A really, really fast throw will also allow a duller point to inflict damage; but I bet having a sharp point is key. Sharpening things in primitive conditions had to take real skill.

Launching technology was the next real revolution. I don't think anybody can throw a primitive arrow into a buffalo, but with a bow making it go really fast the buffalo is toast. Once launching was invented, chucking had to go out of style pretty quickly. The primitive tribes of the Amazon use really tiny projectiles and blow-guns. They can carry dozens of projectiles and not even notice the weight.

For My Generation (1)

NEDHead (1651195) | about a year ago | (#43775581)

I believe it was about third grade

I should say so! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43775619)

But direct evidence of this hunting technique in early sites has been lacking.

When someone invents the time machine, we'll know for sure!

Any EULAs/royalties/licensing spears? (3, Funny)

k6mfw (1182893) | about a year ago | (#43775705)

Og comes up with a superior spear, shares it with rest of tribe ("its open source") but gets taken to court for because he was not licensed. Og documents his experience (drawings in a cave) but someone yells copyright infringement and drawings are erased.

I don't think man ever hunted spears. (1)

kommakazi (610098) | about a year ago | (#43775743)

I believe we started hunting *with* spears.

Re:I don't think man ever hunted spears. (5, Funny)

JustOK (667959) | about a year ago | (#43775773)

Leave Britney ALONE!!!!

Re:I don't think man ever hunted spears. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43775783)

Hurl....not hunt

Good Luck With That (0)

Baby Duck (176251) | about a year ago | (#43775767)

Early spears were made of all wood. Wood does not fossilize by itself. Direct evidence is therefore few and far between. Not all early bands and tribes recorded on rock and even amongst those that did, few of those sites are preserved.

Re:Good Luck With That (2)

theguyfromsaturn (802938) | about a year ago | (#43775933)

I don't think that anthropology deals much with fossils anyways. I don't know how long it takes for remains to fossilize, but I'd be willing to bet that it takes more than the few hundred millenia associated with ancient human studies. Anthropology deals more with actual bones than fossils, though even then, wood is probably usually one of the first casualties of time.

I think it was about 1998... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43775813)

... When i started hurling about a Spears....

Hurling? Really? (1)

joshuao3 (776721) | about a year ago | (#43775887)

Perhaps they mean "Hurtling"?

Re:Hurling? Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43776339)

hurl (hûrl)
v. hurled, hurling, hurls
v.tr.
1. To throw with great force; fling. See Synonyms at throw.
2. To send with great vigor; thrust: hurled the army against the enemy.
3. To throw down; overthrow.
4. To utter vehemently: hurled insults at the speaker.
5. Slang To vomit (the contents of the stomach).
v.intr.
1. To move with great speed, force, or violence; hurtle.
2. To throw something with force.
3. Slang To vomit.
4. Baseball To pitch the ball.

Hunting? Meat? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43775957)

These primitives just used their spears for defense against predators. We know they were vegetarians [huffingtonpost.com] so why would they be throwing their spears an innocent creatures??

The whole meat thing is just more capitalist exploits of the Earth. It gives people cancer and wrecks the planet. The capitalists have wrecked the palates of western victims to create demand for their meat-based economy.

Re:Hunting? Meat? (1)

flayzernax (1060680) | about a year ago | (#43776199)

I hate to break this to you but people had very distinct eating habits based on where they lived and what season it was.

Most hunter gatherer's ate whatever they could easily collect. That goes for the ones that still exist today. It boiled down to what was least amount of effort.

Most of that time that was nuts, berries, roots, just about anything that a people could recognize as not gonna kill you off.

In colder regions though, people needed lots of fat to survive.

Re:Hunting? Meat? (1)

tsotha (720379) | about a year ago | (#43776975)

No, they were not vegetarians. We have all sorts of archaeological evidence showing early man ate animals. The fact that most other primates don't is irrelevant.

If they can figure out when (1)

Adult film producer (866485) | about a year ago | (#43775977)

the first politician appeared in our history then that might be a good place to start.

It was progress, but... (1)

Lew Perin (30124) | about a year ago | (#43776123)

Sigmund Freud said, "The first human who hurled an insult instead of a stone was the founder of civilization."

Any real evidence for the flip side? (4, Insightful)

JustNiz (692889) | about a year ago | (#43776163)

Is there any evidence that there was any delay at all?

Seems to me once you have the intelligence to make and use a spear, it ill only be days at most before you're gonna try throwing it, at least partly because throwing whatever you have in your hand is what you would automatically do if you've got some pissed-off large animal (such as one thats just been prodded with a pointy stick) chasing you.

Re:Any real evidence for the flip side? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43776399)

I expect it would not have taken long to go to throwing spears, if for no other reason than thrusting a spear through a rabbit or a fish isn't much different from throwing a spear at a rabbit or a fish. Now, risking throwing your spear against large game... that can be an entirely different proposition:

Even up through the Renaissance Era, a hunting party would not attempt to take a boar with thrown spears; they would strike the boar at close range, hold fast, and let the boar skewer itself as it charges the spear holder. Note that this does require the small innovation of a stop or crossbar on the spear a foot or so away from the point so the boar doesn't charge through the WHOLE length of the spear.

Re:Any real evidence for the flip side? (1)

MobileC (83699) | about a year ago | (#43776647)

You can jab with a spear many times.
You can only throw it once.

Re:Any real evidence for the flip side? (2)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about a year ago | (#43776717)

it ill only be days at most before you're gonna try throwing it, at least partly because throwing whatever you have in your hand is what you would automatically do if you've got some pissed-off large animal (such as one thats just been prodded with a pointy stick) chasing you.

What you're describing is the guys who didn't pass along their genes to the next generation.

Throwing a spear leaves you unarmed. Throwing it at something charging you leaves you CLOSER to the thing charging you, and unarmed.

Not ideal choices if you want to pass your genes on to the next generation.

Note, by the by, that you won't be hunting large mammals alone with your little spear. You'll have a bunch of friends (well, better hope they're your friends) helping. When mammoth gets annoyed at you and charges, your friends will be poking it to distract it. As you will be after it turns on them (assuming, of course, that you weren't dumb enough to throw away your spear).

Basic rule for discussing the Stone Age (4, Interesting)

dkleinsc (563838) | about a year ago | (#43776209)

Early humans were not significantly stupider than us modern humans. They were pretty creative in how they solved their problems, and it was their quick thinking that got humanity to the point where we had enough free time to figure out later innovations like bronze, plaster, and agriculture.

A great example of this: They figured out the basic concept of cooking. Apes don't do that, and it allowed humans to eat things that other animals couldn't eat, and meant that humans were far less likely to get sick from what they ate. And while it seems like an obvious thing now, it wasn't at all obvious 125,000 years ago: You first had to get the idea of controlling and later building fires, then the idea of trying to use that fire to make plants you couldn't eat into plants you could eat (perhaps combining them with water), and the idea of heating meat over the fire, and observing that if you cooked your food before eating it you were less likely to get sick.

Throwing spears Homo sapiens sapiens (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about a year ago | (#43776273)

The general consensus is that Homo sapiens neanderthalis did not use throwing spears and it was the Homo sapiens sapiens who did this innovation. Seems to generally agree with the consensus estimates of the departure of the original stock breaking out of Africa some 70000 to 50000 years ago.

In a related note it was there is an recorded instance of Boreopithecus redmondonis that hurled chairs.

When Brittany Spears began hurling? (1)

Timmy D Programmer (704067) | about a year ago | (#43776315)

Now that requires our full scientific analysis.

Great! (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year ago | (#43776371)

Now I can upgrade the Man v. Neanderthal first-person stabber that I've been working on to a first-person thrower.

Just using pointed sticks (1)

PeterJFraser (572070) | about a year ago | (#43776413)

How many years earlier did humans just use pointed sticks. The technology to sharpen a stick to a point is a lot simpler than a stone point. I believe humans started to stand on two feet just to be able to carry a long pointed stick to use for defense and attack.

Why would they need to throw them? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43776489)

We're adapted for persistance hunting. Spears were probably used to safely finish off a dying animal laying on its side suffering a heat stroke. It's not that early humans couldn't accurately throw a spear, it was just pointless. Hiding behind a bush and hurling a spear is probably a regional hunting technique.

Narrowing down the invention of the club (1)

Camel Pilot (78781) | about a year ago | (#43776493)

I remember reading somewhere that some anthropologists narrowed down the inventions of the club when skulls starting thickening :)

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