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An artifact found in South Africa that can rewrite the history of mankind

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An international team of scientists has studied an artifact found in the 1960s on the East coast of South Africa in a layer more than 60 thousand years old, and concluded that it is an ancient arrowhead smeared with poison.
The study was published in the journal Quaternary Science Reviews, and the author's group briefly told about it on the portal Phys.org. Scientists have studied a long, thin and pointed artifact found in the caves of the Classis river, which flows along the Eastern coast of South Africa.


We are talking about a product that was extracted from a layer more than 60 thousand years old. Researchers note that even visually, it is very similar to thousands of bone arrowheads used by local hunter-gatherers of the San tribe from the XVIII to XX centuries.

This artifact was excavated in the 1960s, but until recently no one suspected its importance. The fact is that it was originally incorrectly dated. In the new study, researchers used a combined approach that includes microscopic analysis of the bone surface, high-resolution computed tomography, and non-destructive chemical analysis

As a result, traces of black organic matter were found distributed over the surface of the bone. This led scientists to think of poisoned arrows. Chemical analysis showed that this substance consisted of many organic ingredients.

Microscopic analysis showed that the artifact was attached to an arrow shaft, possibly made from reeds. Computer tomography revealed microscopic damage inside the artifact, similar to what occurs in arrowheads when they move quickly.

All this allowed researchers to conclude that this artifact is the tip of an arrow, which was dipped in poison before use. This is a well-known technology, but the key question is the age of this arrow. It turned out to be the oldest-this is the first tip older than 60 thousand years, described by scientists.

The discovery also suggests that ancient people in southern Africa more than 60 thousand years ago were able to combine various ingredients to make glue and poison and made their products in a complex way, using several stages. That is, they were able to "think outside the box".

The emergence of bow and arrow hunting in recent years is considered the birth point of a complex society. The oldest such evidence on the territory of Europe is about 45 thousand years old, outside of its borders and outside of Africa-35 thousand years. Arrows of this age, for example, were found on the island of Timor.

The new discovery indicates that in South Africa, bone arrowheads began to be used about 20,000 years earlier than in any other region of the planet. This confirms the generally accepted theory that the cradle of humanity is located in Africa.

"Archery technology gives hunters a unique advantage over their prey," the researchers write - it allows them to hunt from a distance and from ambush. This increases the chances of success and ensures safety when hunting predators or large animals such as buffaloes."

A bow and arrow consists of several parts, each of which has a specific function. But it is known that all this works only together, as a single complex. This proves that ancient people had high cognitive flexibility - the ability to switch from one thought to another, as well as think about several things at once.

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