Archaeologists have discovered the first evidence that humans in Europe hunted mammoths with spears over 25,000 years ago rather than driving them off cliffs or using traps.
The startling discovery was made in the city of in Krakow, in the Lesser Poland Province in southern Poland, where a site that holds one of the largest concentrations of mammoth skeletons in Europe is located.
Decades-long excavations have revealed 110 skeletons from over 25,000 years ago in the area and recently a small segment of a spear blade was discovered in one of the skeletons, the first discovery of its kind in Europe.
Piotr Wojtal from the Krakow Polish Academy of Sciences said: “During a detailed analysis of the remains, I came across a damaged mammoth rib. It turned out that there is a piece of a flint spear tip in it. This is the first such find from the Ice Age in Europe.
“The spear had been thrown with force into the mammoth from a distance, as evidenced by the strength with which it was driven into the animal’s body – the blade had to cover two centimeters of skin and an eight-centimeter layer of fat to finally reach the bones.”
He added: “The fragment preserved in the bone is only 7mm long.”
He said the flint fragment was broken off at the moment of driving the spear into the body of the mammoth.’
He emphasised the lack of a consensus in scientific circles until now on the way that ancient Europeans killed mammoths. Previously, evidence of spear hunting had been only found only in Siberia, with other hypotheses being the use of deep pits as traps or ancient Europeans forcing the mammoths to fall off cliffs.
Wojtal added that the wound had not been fatal but the animal was most likely killed by being stabbed in softer tissue.
The archaeological site was discovered in 1967 and archaeologists from the Institute of Archaeology of the Jagiellonian University have sporadically been working there ever since.
According to the researchers, the area where the bones were discovered had clearly been ideal for the preparation of an ambush for mammoths as there were so many killed at the location.