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Early spears as thrusting weapons: isolating force and impact velocities in human performance trials

Milks, A. ORCID:, Champion, S., Cowper, E., Pope, M. and Carr, D. (2016) Early spears as thrusting weapons: isolating force and impact velocities in human performance trials. Journal of Archaeological Science, 10. pp. 191-203. ISSN 0305-4403

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.jasrep.2016.09.005


Human hunting has been a cornerstone of research in human evolutionary studies, and decades worth of re�search programmes into early weapon systems have improved our understanding of the subsistence behaviours of our genus. Thrusting spears are potentially one of the earliest hunting weapons to be manufactured and used by humans. However, a dearth of data on the mechanics of thrusting spear use has hampered experimental re�search. This paper presents a human performance trial using military personnel trained in bayonet use. Partici�pants thrusted replicas of Middle Pleistocene wooden spears into PermaGel™. For each spear thrust, impact velocity was recorded with high-speed video equipment, and force profiles were recorded using a force transduc�er. The results demonstrate that training improves performance when compared with previous experimental re�sults using untrained participants, and that the mechanics and biomechanics of spear thrusting are complex. The trial confirms that previous spear thrusting experiments firing spears as projectiles are failing to replicate the entire spear thrusting event, and that crossbows are too powerful to replicate the low velocities involved in spear thrusting. In order to better understand evidence of spear thrusting in the archaeological record, experimental protocols accurately replicating and recording the mechanics of spear thrusting in the past are proposed.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Archaeology
ID Code:102642

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