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300,000 year old wooden throwing stick

10 September 2023
Anthropology, Archaeology, Catastrophism, Geology

At https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0287719 … as per Current Archaeology 403 [Sept/Oct 2023]. The relevant link is Science Reports on page 12. Here we have a picture of a double pointed piece of wood – a point at each end. It has been dated to 300,000 years ago. How wood can be preserved from so long ago is a mystery, one might think, as wood very quickly disappears after breaking down in the environment. However, as wood has been preserved from much earlier periods, such as the dinosaur era, one can only assume it was buried very quickly after being thrown, or lost. In fact, we are told it was covered in mud and buried. This could happen during a catastrophic event – lesser or major.

The wooden object was described as a rare find. Other wooden tools were also uncovered in the vicinity – including wooden spears. The site, at Schoningen in Germany, is now a lignite mine north of Helmstadt. In the interglacial period the people were living at a lakeside location. It is dated to the Middle Palaeolithic era and at presumably the time of the Neanderthals. The site  is currently been intensively investigated and the wooden throwing stick has been analysed using 3D microscopy and scanning methodology. They found the throwing stick had been carefully worked, in the same way as they spent a lot of time on their stone tools. It was a piece of real workmanship – probably from a single person  spending his time perfecting it as a hunting tool. The throwing stick began life as a branch of a spruce tree. Pine pollen grains were  found at the site as wll as the pollen of willows, alder and juniper. There was little spruce pollen. It was deduced the spruce object came from elsewhere and was brought to the lakeside. Analysis using CT scans looked at the vgetation which indicated the throwing stick grew at high altitude, or during a cooling episode. The climate was slowly changing we are told, as that is the uniormitarian view. Gradual change. In other words, the climate was coming out of the interglacial – thereby confirming by guesswork the Ice Age process. The thing to take away is that the throwing stick and wooden spears, located in various locations, but nearby, were preserved quickly. They were buried in mud. That suggests a watery episode of some kind. Internsive rainfall, perhaps, or the lake emptying. It coincided, it would seem, with the end of the interglacial.

The lignite is also interesting. You will find plenty of links for Schoningen and Helmstadt lignite open cast mining, most of which is now a geological GeoPark where visitors can seek out fossils. It seems to have largely formed during the Eocene – so, they are long before 300,000 years ago. In other words, the lignite beds were located at Schoningen when the Neaderthals visited the area to hunt near the lakeside. That is from a cursory search of the Net and does not by any means represent a comprehensive search of available information.

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