Spear and Dart Points
Stone tools were used as the tips on spears or darts. In archaeological terminology, a ‘spear point’ was mounted on a thrusting or hand-thrown weapon, and a ‘dart point’ was mounted on a weapon cast with a spearthrower.
The invention of the spearthrower was an important breakthrough in human evolution, as it allowed prey to be taken down at a distance from the hunter. This, in turn, allowed large animals to be hunted more safely, and it made it easier to capture elusive prey species. It also meant that hunting could be done in more open country, using different tactics, and it likely changed the nature of violence against other people.
The earliest known spears were found at the Schöningen site in Germany, and date to ca. 300,000-340,000 years ago. These are single-piece wooden spears, probably made by Neanderthals or Homo heidelbergensis. Although the spears were made with stone tools—such as flakes, retouched flakes, and core tools—the hominins just sharpened the end of the shaft rather than affixing a stone armature. These spears were probably used for thrusting or throwing, and were not cast with a spearthrower.
The earliest hafted stone points are from the Fauresmith Industry at Kathu Pan in South Africa, dating to ca. 500,000 BP. These points are unmodified or retouched flakes that were made by the Levallois core reduction method. Archaeologists think they are spear points because the damage on them is consistent with abrupt impact. The spear-makers were probably a population of Homo heidelbergensis ancestral to the makers of the Schöningen spears. The earliest direct evidence of Levallois points for hunting comes from a broken point found at the Syrian site of Umm el Tlel embedded in the vertebrae of a wild ass, dating to ca. 50,000 BP. Levallois points may have been made by Neanderthals or other archaic hominins, as well as by early Homo sapiens.