Europe’s oldest arrowheads found in France

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(ORDO NEWS) — Archaeologists have studied stone artifacts from the French Mandrin grotto, found in the same layer as a human tooth of a modern anatomical type.

Among them were miniature arrowheads, whose age is about 54 thousand years. This is the oldest evidence in Europe of the use of bows and arrows by people.

It was traditionally believed that modern humans (Homo sapiens) began to settle in Europe about 45-43 thousand years ago, evidence of which was found, for example, in the Bulgarian cave of Bacho-Kiro.

However, in 2022, anthropologists presented the results of a study of teeth found in the Mandrin grotto, which is located in southeastern France.

In the cultural layer with the Neron stone industry, known from several other sites in the Rhone River valley, scientists found a tooth that belonged to sapiens, which appeared in Western Europe much earlier – in the interval between 56.8 and 51.7 thousand years ago.

It is known that the settled Cro-Magnons brought many cultural innovations to the lands occupied by the Neanderthals. One of them, apparently, was a bow and arrows.

According to modern ideas, people began to use these weapons in the Middle Stone Age of Africa. So, in the South African cave of Sibudu, archaeologists found arrowheads, whose age exceeds 60 thousand years.

Outside of this continent, the oldest evidence of bow and arrow use has been found in Sri Lanka. Their age is about 48 thousand years.

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View of the river Rhone in the vicinity of the Grotto Mandren

Archaeologists from the United States and France, led by Ludovic Slimak from the University of Toulouse, examined stone artifacts found in layer E of the Mandrin grotto, in which a single human tooth of a modern anatomical type was previously found.

In total, 2267 stone objects related to the Nero industry were excavated here.

In the new work, scientists studied 852 artifacts, 476 of which are arrowheads.

The latter are represented by products with a maximum length of 30 to 60 millimeters, as well as miniature artifacts with a maximum length of less than 30 millimeters (and sometimes less than ten millimeters).

On about 70 percent of the artifacts (n = 597), the researchers found macro- or microscopic traces of use.

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Artifacts relating to the Neronian industry found in the Mandren Grotto

Although some of the large arrowheads were said to have been used for butchering animal carcasses, most likely were weapon parts.

A series of analyzes led to the conclusion that the miniature arrowheads were fragments of arrows. Larger artifacts could also be used as javelin heads launched with a spear thrower.

The results obtained led to the conclusion that the oldest evidence of the use of bows and arrows in Europe was found in the Mandren grotto.


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