Download Full Text (5.4 MB)


This research project investigates prehistoric hunting practices, involving a hand-thrown spears, henceforth referred to as “Projectile Technology”. It aims to assess the influence of spear shaft size in the efficacy of spears as a whole during hunting pursuit. Moreover, we will evaluate how the hunter’s distance from the target may affect the efficacy of varying spear-sizes. The broader theoretical question we seek to address is what specific spear-size and throwing-location considerations determined the success of hunting with projectile weaponry. Projectile point technology has marked a major cultural innovation in human history in Africa around 200,000 years ago (Shea 2006; Milks 2019). This experiment will produce replicated projectile weaponry and will record participants in a prehistoric hunting scenario. Results achieved with each spear will be analyzed to understand the effect of various shafts lengths and their impact on distance achieved and successes. Understanding the nature of various shaft lengths through replicative hunting strategies of the past will aid in the rationalization of effects of shaft length at distance, due to the virtue of wood (presumable source material of shafts) being perishable in the archaeological record. Measurements will be taken such as participant height, arm length, and individualized spatial representations of their throws will be plotted on a 2 x 2 m grid. Comparative analysis of the range of achieved distances and the shaft length variation will provide experimental data with which to assess what would have been preferable or necessary technological considerations in order to achieve best results from prehistoric hunting.

Publication Date



Anthropology, Experimental Archaeology, Lithics


Archaeological Anthropology

A great hunter needs a great spear: Experimental study of technological considerations that determine the efficacy of a hunting spear