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28 June 2011
Arrow origins traced to Africa

"The invention of the bow and arrow used to be closely linked to the late Upper Paleolithic (Stone Age) in Europe," less than 30,000 years ago, says anthropologist Marlize Lombard of South Africa's University of Johannesburg.
     Last year, however, Lombard and her colleagues reported that arrows were around at least 64,000 years ago. In South Africa, a single bloodstained quartz arrowhead had turned up at the Sibudu Cave site, dating to that time. In the new study, Lombard reports more arrowheads and more evidence pushing back the age of the bow and arrow.
     In the new study, Lombard looks through the microscope at 16 quartz blades found in dirt layers at the South African site as much as 65,000 years old. All but two of the ancient blades have blood traces on them and nine were deliberately chipped to fit onto a tool. Lombard concludes that, "at least nine tools in this sample were probably used as transversely hafted arrowheads." The others may have been blades used to butcher animals, or fitted onto barbs or darts.
     The age of the bow and arrow may go further back, says paleo-anthropologist John Shea of Stony Brook University (USA). "My own personal hunch is that the bow and arrow dates to at least 100,000 years ago, based on stone tools found at sites in Ethiopia, Kenya and neighbouring countries."

Edited from USA Today (20 June 2011)

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