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South African cave yields Middle Stone Age projectiles

By Brooks Hays
South African cave yields Middle Stone Age projectiles
Projectiles recovered from a South African cave offer the earliest evidence of pressure flaking technology. Photo by Veerle Rots, et al./PLOS ONE

April 26 (UPI) -- The chronology of advancements in stone knapping technology isn't well understood by archaeologists. But a new discovery in a Souther African cave is offering some clarity.

Hunter gatherers began using new techniques to create stone projectiles during what's known as the South African Middle Stone Age. However, there remains debate about the details -- the timing and origin -- of each technological breakthrough.

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Researchers from the University of Liege, in Belgium, analyzed 25 weapon point fragments recovered at Sibudu Cave, an ancient rock shelter and archaeological site near KwaZulu-Natal, in northern South Africa.

Scientists determined the stone points were formed by a technique called pressure flaking. More than half of the fragments showed evidence of impact and hosted remnants of animal tissue, which suggests the weapons were used for hunting.

The fragmentation patterns suggest the points were affixed to handles and projected using a bow or spear-thrower.

The findings -- detailed in the journal PLOS ONE -- offer the earliest evidence of pressure flaking yet discovered, pushing the technological breakthrough back to 77,000 years ago.

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