September 18th, 2012 by James Ayre
Eight extremely well preserved spears, at least 300,000 years old, have been recovered from a site in north-central Germany. Just goes “to show that human ingenuity is nothing new,” and was shared by many now-‘extinct’ species of humans.
Researchers from the University of Tübingen discovered “eight extremely well-preserved spears — an astonishing 300,000 years old, making them the oldest known weapons anywhere.” Along with the spears, the other artifacts and animal remains found at the research site make it clear that their users “were highly skilled craftsmen and hunters, well adapted to their environment — with a capacity for abstract thought and complex planning comparable to our own.” The researchers think that they were likely members of the ‘species’ ‘Homo heidelbergensis’ — human remains have yet to be found at the site though.
This discovery is following on the heels of the now oldest-known musical instruments, discovered in southern Germany.
“The project is headed by Prof. Nicholas Conard and the excavations are supervised by Dr. Jordi Serangeli, both from the University of Tübingen’s Institute of Prehistory, which has been supporting the local authority’s excavation in an open-cast brown coal mine in Schöningen since 2008. They are applying skills from several disciplines at this uniquely well-preserved site find out more about how humans lived in the environment of 300,000 years ago.”
“The bones of large mammals — elephants, rhinoceroses, horses and lions — as well as the remains of amphibians, reptiles, shells and even beetles have been preserved in the brown coal. Pines, firs, and black alder trees are preserved complete with pine cones, as have the leaves, pollen and seeds of surrounding flora.”
Before the mining started 30 years ago, all of these artifacts and bones were lying below the water table. As the archeologists say, what they are now doing is “underwater archaeology without the water.” The excavation has been going on nearly year round, and the very rich site is continuing to yield discoveries almost everyday.
“Some of the most important finds of the past three years have been remains of a water buffalo in the context of human habitation, an almost completely preserved aurochs (one of the oldest in central Europe), and several concentrations of stone artifacts, bones and wood. They allow the scientists to examine an entire landscape instead of just one site. That makes Schöningen an exciting location and global reference point not just for archaeology, but also for quaternary ecology and climate research. A research center and museum, the ‘Paläon,’ is to be opened in 2013 to to provide information to the public about the work going on in Schöningen.”
Source: Universitaet Tübingen
Image Credits: Nicholas J. Conard, Universität Tübingen
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