Scientists have finally discovered how Ice Age hunters killed mammoths after a javelin that they thrust into one in Kraków, Poland was still found inside of the mammoth’s rib after 25,000 years. Because of this surprising discovery, scientists now have proof that weapons were once used by Ice Age Europeans to bring down these enormous creatures.
As Live Science reports, scientists had previously considered many different possibilities about how mammoths were killed by humans. For instance, hunters may have used cunning to trap these huge mammoths by luring them off cliffs or into other areas like pits, where they would have been unable to escape. The possibility had also been considered that hunters may have specifically chosen either frail or ill mammoths as these animals would have been much easier prey.
However, according to Piotr Wojtal, an archaeozoologist at the Institute of Systematics and Evolution of Animals at the Poland Academy of Sciences in Kraków, the discovery of the 25,000-year-old javelin in the mammoth’s rib has finally solved the long-standing mystery of how these animals were hunted by Ice Age humans.
“We finally have a smoking gun, the first direct evidence of how these animals were hunted.”
— Live Science (@LiveScience) January 18, 2019
The mammoth’s rib in question was first unearthed in Kraków in 2002, and Wotjal has explained that he was very lucky to have stumbled upon this specimen given the fact that it was scattered among so many other bones.
“Among tens of thousands of bones, during a detailed analysis of the remains, I came across a damaged mammoth rib. It turned out that a fragment of a flint arrowhead was stuck in it.”
However, this mammoth rib was not studied in any significant manner until 2018, and it was at this time that scientists found a 0.3-inch-long flint tip embedded deeply in the animal’s rib. According to Wojtal, this javelin would have been thrust at quite a distance from the animal.
“The spear was certainly thrown at the mammoth from a distance, as evidenced by the force with which it stuck into an animal. The blade had to pierce two-centimeters-thick [0.7 inches] skin and an eight-centimeter [0.04 inches] layer of fat to finally reach the bone.”
While a large number of mammoths have been recovered from Siberia, Adrian Lister, a professor of vertebrates and anthropology at the Natural History Museum in London, noted that the case of the 25,000-year-old javelin that was found embedded in a mammoth’s rib is the first time that a weapon has ever been discovered inside one of these animals.