Lack of projectile weapons might have lead to Neanderthals extinction

January 15th, 2009 - 2:18 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Jan 15 (ANI): A trio of new studies on prehistoric weapons has suggested that though the Neanderthals made sophisticated weapons and tools, they lacked the projectile weapons possessed by early humans, which probably contributed to their eventual extinction.

According to a report in Discovery News, the missing technology, along with climate change and competition with arrow-shooting humans, may have played a part in their die off.

While we are not suggesting that modern humans were directing projectile weapons against Neanderthals, it is certainly possible that at times they did so, said Steven Churchill, co-author of one of the research papers.

Churchill, an associate professor of evolutionary anthropology at Duke University, and colleague Jill Rhodes compared Neanderthal fossils with those of prehistoric and modern humans, focusing on the shoulder and elbow.

When engaged in overhead throwing activity, such as throwing a baseball, or a spear, this increases the movement arm of the muscles and gives greater strength and velocity to the throw, said Rhodes, a visiting assistant professor of anthropology at Bryn Mawr College.

She explained to Discovery News that modern athletes, like baseball pitchers and handball players, often show a characteristic backward displacement at the shoulder joint.

Usually just one joint shows this, since most people have a preferred throwing arm.

The anthropologists found this telltale skeletal characteristic in the early modern European fossils, but not in the Neanderthals.

Neanderthals probably hand threw spears over short distances, but perhaps they simply never got around to inventing means of propelling spears or other projectiles long distances, said Churchill.

Or perhaps their short, squat body build with short and massive limbs was not conducive to using throwing-based hunting technology, he added. (ANI)

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