Study Suggests That Archery May Have Started In South Asia 48,000 Years Ago

Scientists do what they can to look into the past and sometimes, they discover something that they feel is monumental. That includes evidence from Sri Lanka that may show animal bones were being crafted into hunting tools, some 48,000 years ago.

In Southwest Sri Lanka at the Fa-Hien Lena cave, they found items used in making clothing or nets, such as beads and awls. They also found arrowheads. It appears as if this is the oldest evidence of archery found in the region. According to the report, which was published on Friday in the Journal Science Advances, it may just be the oldest in all of Eurasia. Scientists have often theorized that humans were alive in South Asia during the Late Pleistocene epoch, although they didn’t have specifics about timing.

The Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History (MPI-SHH) was a contributor to the study and said in a press release, the “origins of human innovation have traditionally been sought in the grasslands and coasts of Africa or the temperate environments of Europe.”

Patrick Roberts is a co-author archaeologist for the study who brought out that the “traditional focus” means that “other parts of Africa, Asia, Australasia, and the Americas have often been side-lined in discussions of the origins of material culture, such as novel projectile hunting methods or cultural innovations associated with our species.”

Scientists also released information in 2019 from a study that analyzed monkey and squirrel bones found in the same cave on the island. That work showed that the mammals were hunted by humans thousands of years ago.

Fa-Hien Lena is also the area that some just feel was the first appearance of Homo sapiens in South Asia.

Some of the bones found in Fa-Hien Lena were already crafted into tools, helping the researchers to see more clearly what they were used for.

“The fractures on the points indicate damage through high-powered impact – something usually seen in the use of bow-and-arrow hunting of animals,” Griffith University’s Michelle Langley said. “This evidence is earlier than similar findings in Southeast Asia 32,000 years ago.”

130 projectile points were uncovered at Fa-Hien Lena. After looking at where patterns and fractures under magnification, they found that they could not have been used as blowgun darts because they were too heavy and short.

The team also looked into the length of the projectile points and how they increased as time went by. It may be that the hunters were looking for larger game animals.

Additional relics were also discovered in the area. Decorative beads made from shark teeth, marine snail shells, and mineral ochre were included in the find. Roberts feels that the beads prove that the early humans in Sri Lanka were trading goods with other populations and that social networks may have existed.

“These networks would be key to survival, as if climate change or other issues faced one population they could be supported by another, allowing our species as a whole to persist and thrive,” he said.

Scientists are now looking into other coastal sites to see if evidence of trading exists.

“Humans at this time show extraordinary resourcefulness and the ability to exploit a range of new environments,” said Nicole Boivin, director at MPI-SHH. “These skills enabled them to colonize nearly all of the planet’s continents by about 10,000 years ago, setting us clearly on the path to being the global species we are today.”

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