Neanderthals may have used projectile spears

Bone abnormality suggests repetitive movements similar to those documented for professional throwing athletes

Three long bones from a Neanderthal left arm have been found at Tourville-la-Rivière, Normandy. The bones are somewhere between 183,000 and 236,000 years old and paleo-ecological indicators suggest an date towards the end of the MIS 7 interglacial (245,000 to 190,000 years ago).

An abnormal crest has been found on the humerus, which is thought to represent a deltoid muscle enthesis. The abnormality could have resulted from trauma connected to repetitive movements similar to those seen for professional throwing athletes.

It has long been assumed that Neanderthals used only thrusting rather than projectile spears, but the Tourville-la-Rivière findings provide evidence,albeit inderect, that this might not have been the case. Such a suggestion is consistent with the recent discovery of 280,000-year-old projectile points in Ethiopia.Though these were not made by Neanderthals, they nevertheless indicate that archaic humans could master projectile technology.

The findings are published in the open-access journal PLoS One.


1. Faivre, J. et al., Middle Pleistocene Human Remains from Tourville-la-Rivière (Normandy, France) and Their Archaeological Context. PLoS One 9 (10), e104111 (2014).


Author: prehistorian

Prehistorian & author