Postgraduate Research Archaeology Symposium

James Dilley (2016)

Keywords: Aurignacian, hunting strategies, projectile manufacture, Upper Palaeolithic


The production of projectiles during the Aurignacian in Western Europe (40,000-35,000 BP) has received limited attention from an experimental perspective. No further beyond determining the production techniques of the antler points themselves and possible hafting systems. The use of osseous materials for projectile tips has been the subject of some research, but with no real attempt to build upon some of the concluding thoughts that arose from using antler or bone over stone. The value of some of the raw materials used to manufacture complete projectiles has never truly been considered when referring to the Aurignacian. Such factors would have played a major role in seasonal hunting strategies if certain materials were unavailable during hunting movements. This research will aim to determine whether the focus of producing Aurignacian projectiles was strongly bias towards the longevity of all the parts that made them composite implements (e.g. osseous tip, wooden shaft, tar/resin mastic and organic binding), or towards the overall effectiveness of the completed tool.  Usable wood for spear shafts would have likely been a very sparse luxury in NW Europe during MIS 3. It is quite possible shafts would have had to have been manufactured further to the south before use in hunting activities to the north. A further aim of this research will be to test replica composite Aurignacian spears using different material variables. This will demonstrate some of the advantages of using materials such as antler for spear tips. Observations will be taken during production using authentic tools, materials and methods. The flight and ballistic capabilities of the spears will also be tested. This will show whether osseous tipped spears required extra propulsion leverage such as from a spear thrower or ankyle.