A 300,000-year-old throwing stick from Schöningen, northern Germany, documents the evolution of human hunting

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Abstract

The poor preservation of Palaeolithic sites rarely allows the recovery of wooden artefacts, which served as key tools in the arsenals of early hunters. Here, we report the discovery of a wooden throwing stick from the Middle Pleistocene open-air site of Schöningen that expands the range of Palaeolithic weaponry and establishes that late Lower Palaeolithic hominins in Northern Europe were highly effective hunters with a wide array of wooden weapons that are rarely preserved in the archaeological record.

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Fig. 1: Throwing stick from Schöningen 13 II-4.
Fig. 2: Throwing stick from Schöningen 13 II-4.

Change history

  • 11 May 2020

    An amendment to this paper has been published and can be accessed via a link at the top of the paper.

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Acknowledgements

We thank our colleagues from the State Heritage Office of Lower Saxony and the entire Schöningen excavation team, W. Berkemer, N. Haycock, M. Kursch, D. Mennella and J. Neumann-Giesen, for their support over the last 12 years of research at Schöningen; R. Ehmann, A. Gonschior, A. Janas, A. Karakostis, M. McCartin and W. Mertens in particular assisted with the field work, laboratory research and in the preparation of figures and images. This study was funded by the Ministry of Science and Culture of Lower Saxony, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft grant CO 226/22–1, the University of Tübingen, V.R.’s ERC grant agreement no. 312283 and the Fund for Scientific Research (FNRS).

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N.J.C. and J.S. led the excavations at Schöningen; G.B. and V.R. analysed the wooden artefact presented here. All of the authors contributed to the text.

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Correspondence to Nicholas J. Conard.

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Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figs. 1–10 and legends for Supplementary Figs. 11 and 12.

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Supplementary Fig. 11

Schöningen 13 II-4. 3D model showing the stratigraphic position of the throwing stick. Model by A. Janas.

Supplementary Fig. 12

Schöningen 13 II-4. 3D model of the throwing stick. Model by M. McCartin.

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Conard, N.J., Serangeli, J., Bigga, G. et al. A 300,000-year-old throwing stick from Schöningen, northern Germany, documents the evolution of human hunting. Nat Ecol Evol 4, 690–693 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-020-1139-0

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