Stone Age Weapons

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As humans evolved from the apes and begin to walk on two feet, they probably started throwing sticks and stones at each other. The earliest weapons used by man were for hunting. Early man discovered that he could extend the strength and ability of his limbs by using implements and weapons made from material he found around himself. He must have started out by using sticks as clubs, and stones as projectiles. Soon, he would have realized that he could shape these objects to improve their effectiveness as weapons or tools.

There are two obvious areas in which progress could be made in the improvement of primitive weapons, or flint technology. One was the sharpness of the point of a missile, increasing the damage done when it reaches the target. The other was the force with which it could be propelled, extending its range and impact.

Flint was chiselled into arrow heads (a clovis point), the material was strong as steel and sharper. When used with bows, they were powerful enough to pierce a horse from its hindquarters to its heart. The same points were attached to longer wooden shafts to make spears. The earliest human weapon to have been discovered is a spear, dating from the Lower Palaeolithic era, in what is now Germany. It was found stuck between the ribs of an elephant probably killed by a stone age hunter. The point has penetrated the elephant's hide because it is hardened, by heating in a fire. Another such point has been found embedded in the skull of a bear, which probably died about 100,000 years ago in the Mediterranean region.

Sharpened stone could also be attached to the end of a stick to be used as an axe - either to cut trees, or to be used as a weapon.

Stone Age man also found ways of increasing the power of his arm by extending its effective length. This was by the use of the sling for throwing a stone. It is impossible to know when the sling was first used (made of vegetable fibres or animal skin, it would not survive for the archaeologist), but its power is attested in the biblical story of David and Goliath. Slingers play an important role in warfare throughout ancient history. Spear-throwing devices, known from about 14,000 years ago, are more sophisticated weapons of the same kind.

But the greatest advance in projecting a missile is achieved with the bow.

Read more:

Weapons Down the Ages

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