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Yew wood, would you? An exploration of the selection of wood for Pleistocene spears

Milks, A. ORCID: (2020) Yew wood, would you? An exploration of the selection of wood for Pleistocene spears. In: Berihuete-Azorin, M., Martin Seijo, M., Lopez-Bulto, O. and Pique, R. (eds.) The Missing Woodland Resources: Archaeobotanical studies of the use of plant raw materials. Advances in Archaeobotany, 6 (6). Barkhuis Publishing, Groningen, pp. 5-22. ISBN 9789493194359

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Wood, perishable as it is, likely played a central role in Pleistocene societies and their material culture. This paper is an exploration of the use of wood species by hominins at three key European sites that yielded evidence of hominin manufacture of wooden spears. The sample includes the Clacton Spear point, found in interglacial freshwater deposits at Clacton-on-Sea (UK) dated to Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 11, the collection of wooden spears and spear fragments found at Schöningen 13 II-4 (Germany) dated to MIS 9, and the single complete wooden spear discovered with a butchered elephant at Lehringen (Germany), dated to MIS 5e. Material properties of wood may have influenced the manufacture, performance and durability of these early weapons. This paper collates data on some commonly measured properties of wood, with a focus on the wood species likely available at each site. It explores the use of wood for the spears at these archaeological sites and seeks to understand whether these species were deliberately selected for their material properties. The thought experiment is supported by data from previ�ously published experimental replications, alongside ethnographic data on manufacture and use of wooden tools. The evidence suggests hominins were aware of the material properties of different species of wood, and selection may have been influenced by economic as well as social factors.

Item Type:Book or Report Section
Divisions:Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Archaeology
ID Code:104216
Publisher:Barkhuis Publishing

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