Bone technology of Fa-Hien Lena. Tools made from bone and teeth of monkeys and smaller mammals recovered from Fa-Hien Lena, Sri Lanka. This technology included small bone arrow points (bottom right), and skin or plant-working tools. M. C. Langley
Archaeological excavations have unearthed the earliest known bow-and-arrow technology in Europe or Asia by prehistoric humans along with the world’s oldest beads. . At Fa-Hien Lena, a cave in the heart of Sri Lanka’s wet zone forests, researchers discovered numerous tools made of stone, bone, and tooth – including a number of small arrow points carved from bone which are about 48,000 years old.
This new archaeological research also unearthed implements that may have been used to make clothing – a development traditionally believed to have been used as protection against the cold.
Other artefacts found at the site include decorative beads made from the pointed tips of marine snail shells, which likely came from the coast through trade, and the world’s oldest beads made entirely of red ochre.
This evidence of ‘projectile technology’, personal ornamentation and long-distance social networks in a tropical rainforest, offer new insight into how early Homo sapiens adapted to diverse, extreme environments as they spread across the globe.
Some of the main finds from the site include remarkable single and doubled pointed bone tools that scientists suspect were used to harvest tropical resources.
These tools found in the Fa-Hien Lena cave deep in the heart of Sri Lanka’s Wet Zone forests, are earlier than the first similar technology found in Europe.
Tools and artefacts from between 48,000 and 4,000 years ago were unearthed at Fa-Hien Lena – the site of the earliest human fossils in South Asia.
The researchers analysed 130 arrow points made from animal bone that showed impact fractures consistent with hunting damage.
Originally used to target adult monkeys, the tools increased in length over time for the purpose of hunting larger mammals, such as pigs and deer.
Tools made on bone and teeth were used to hunt small monkeys and squirrels, work skins or plants, and perhaps create nets at Fa-Hien Lena, Sri Lanka 48,000-years-ago. (Credits: M. C. Langley / SWNS)
Notches and wear patterns showed that the points were attached to thin shafts, but they are too short and heavy to have been the tips of blowgun darts.
Therefore, the researchers concluded the tools represent the remnants of bow-and-arrow toolkits – the earliest definitive evidence for high-powered projectile hunting in a tropical rainforest environment.
As well arrow tips, the researchers discovered 29 bone tools that were used to work animal skins, plant fibres, or both.
The authors believe that clothing made with these tools may have served as protection from insect-borne diseases.
Scientists also showed that other bone tools may have been used for making nets or clothing, dramatically altering traditional assumptions about how certain human innovations were linked with specific environments.
Using microscopic analysis on other bone tools, the team found implements which seemed to have been used for freshwater fishing in nearby tropical streams, as well as the working of fibre to make nets or clothing.
Symbolic items of Fa-Hien Lena. Some of the symbolic artefacts recovered from Fa-Hien Lena, Sri Lanka. Here you can see shell beads and different pigments in bright red, yellow, and silver which were used to decorate bodies or items. M. C. Langley
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