300,000-year-old hunting weapon. Credit: Benoit Clarys.

Scientists have found a 300,000-year-old hunting weapon

A hunting weapon from 300,000 years ago reveals that the first humans were experts in the manufacture of wooden weapons.


Scientists Have Found a 300,000-Year-Old Hunting Weapon

In a groundbreaking publication in PLOS ONE journal, scientists describe finding a 300,000-year-old dual-ended hunting weapon. The discovery has shed light on early humans’ proficiency in crafting wooden weapons. Found in Schöningen, Germany, three decades earlier, in-depth analysis revealed that the weapon underwent scraping, seasoning, and sanding before being wielded to prey upon animals.

The research points to an elevated level of woodworking techniques in early humans, more advanced than previously assumed. It indicates that the innovation of light weaponry potentially facilitated the communal hunting of small and medium-sized prey.

Community Hunting – An Early Social Behavior

The employment of these throwing sticks as hunting tools suggests an inclusive hunting practice that might have involved everyone, children included. Dr Annemieke Milks, the lead researcher from the University of Reading’s Department of Archeology, remarked, “Unearthing these wooden tools has revolutionized our perception of early human behavior. Remarkably, these early humans exhibited a remarkable capacity for foresight, a deep understanding of wood properties, and complex woodworking skills still in use today.”

Dr. Milks further added, “Lightweight throwing sticks may have been simpler to wield than heavier spears, implying that the entire community could engage. Such tools might have been a part of children’s hunting and throwing education.”


300,000-Year-Old Hunting Weapon

As per Dirk Leder, the study’s co-author, “Schöningen’s humans crafted this sleek, ergonomic tool from a spruce branch. The process comprised multiple stages, including bark removal, carving a streamlined form, surface roughening, wood seasoning to avert warping and cracking, and final sanding for ease of handling.”

Discovered in 1994, this 77cm-long staff is one among several artefacts unearthed at Schöningen, which includes throwing lances and another similar-sized throwing staff. Currently, this well-preserved piece is on exhibit at the Forschungsmuseum in Schöningen.

Purpose and Mechanics of the Throwing Stick

The double-ended throwing stick, studied with an exceptionally high degree of precision for this research, was likely used by early humans to hunt mid-sized game like roe deer and deer, and possibly fast, small game such as birds and hares. Unlike a modern javelin, these throwing sticks were flung in a rotating fashion, akin to a boomerang, enabling early humans to throw as far as 30 meters.

Despite their light weight, the sheer velocity at which these weapons were thrown could have caused lethal high-energy impacts. The carefully crafted points, fine surface, and the polish from handling indicate that this was a repeatedly used personal item, rather than a hastily made, disposable tool.


Thomas Terberger, the lead researcher, said, “The German Research Foundation’s funded systematic analysis of the Schöningen site’s wooden artefacts provides crucial new data, and we foresee more intriguing information about these early wooden weapons shortly.”

PLEASE READ: Have something to add? Visit Curiosmos on Facebook. Join the discussion in our mobile Telegram group. Also, follow us on Google News. Interesting in history, mysteries, and more? Visit Ancient Library’s Telegram group and become part of an exclusive group.

Written by Ivan Petricevic

I've been writing passionately about ancient civilizations, history, alien life, and various other subjects for more than eight years. You may have seen me appear on Discovery Channel's What On Earth series, History Channel's Ancient Aliens, and Gaia's Ancient Civilizations among others.

Write for us

We’re always looking for new guest authors and we welcome individual bloggers to contribute high-quality guest posts.

Get In Touch