Stone Spears Arrived Earlier Than Thought

Congratulations, homo heidelbergensis

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Nov 15, 2012 5:12 PM CST

(Newser) – Our ancestors figured out how make stone-tipped spears about half a million years ago, significantly earlier than thought, reports Scientific American. Artifacts found in South Africa push back their arrival 200,000 years and suggest they predated Neanderthals. It now appears that a species named homo heidelbergensis gets the credit.

Why the big deal? The LA Times has a nice explainer—these types of spears may seem simple enough, but they're considered a "watershed moment in human evolution" by many anthropologists. Their creators had to make them, figuring out how to affix the spear tip to the wooden shaft with, say, heated beeswax. They got a significant boost in hunting power—and they did so by using their brains.

This undated image provided by Jayne Wilkins shows different angles of an estimated 500,000-year-old stone point from Kathu Pan, South Africa.
This undated image provided by Jayne Wilkins shows different angles of an estimated 500,000-year-old stone point from Kathu Pan, South Africa.   (AP Photo/Jayne Wilkins)
This undated image provided by Jayne Wilkins shows different angles of an estimated 500,000-year-old stone point from Kathu Pan, South Africa.
This undated image provided by Jayne Wilkins shows different angles of an estimated 500,000-year-old stone point from Kathu Pan, South Africa.   (AP Photo/Jayne Wilkins)
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