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Neanderthals could have been long-distance killers Science



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9, 5:00 AM

Neanderthals were dangerous — even at a distance. A new study suggests they might have been able to nail prey with their pointy spears from up to 20 meters away.

Scientists know our archaic cousins ​​stabbed prey at close range. But experiments suggested that Neanderthal-style spears — about 2 meters long and probably weighing less than a kilogram — were too heavy to throw with the force and accuracy required for hunting. Those experiments relied on humans who were often first-time spear throwers, however.

So in the new study, researchers recruited the next best thing to experienced Neanderthal spear hunters: trained javelin throwers, who hurled replicas of a 300,000-year old Neanderthal spear at hay bales from various distances. It wasn't an easy task: The athletes hit the target only 25% of the time when it was 10 meters away. But they achieved the same 25% accuracy at 15 meters, and even managed to hit the target 17% of the time at 20 meters – double the range at which scientists thought and thrown spear could be useful for hunting, the team reports today in Scientific Reports

What's more, video measurements show the hand-thrown spears carried enough energy and momentum to penetrate an animal's flesh, the researchers say. This means that Neanderthals might have been limited to and could have used a variety of hunting strategies – just like modern humans did.


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