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

Milks, A; Pope, MI; Carr, D; Champion, S; Cowper, E; (2016) Early spears as thrusting weapons: Isolating force and impact velocities in human performance trials. Journal of Archaeological Science , 10 pp. 191-203. 10.1016/j.jasrep.2016.09.005. Green open access

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Abstract

Human hunting has been a cornerstone of research in human evolutionary studies, and decades worth of research 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 research. This paper presents a human performance trial using military personnel trained in bayonet use. Participants 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 transducer. The results demonstrate that training improves performance when compared with previous experimental results 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.

Type: Article
Title: Early spears as thrusting weapons: Isolating force and impact velocities in human performance trials
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.jasrep.2016.09.005
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2016.09.005
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2016. This manuscript version is published under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Non-derivative 4.0 International licence (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0). This licence allows you to share, copy, distribute and transmit the work for personal and non-commercial use providing author and publisher attribution is clearly stated. Further details about CC BY licences are available at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0.
Keywords: Weapon delivery systems; Middle Pleistocene; Projectiles; Experiment; Untipped wooden spears
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Institute of Archaeology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Institute of Archaeology > Institute of Archaeology ASE
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Institute of Archaeology > Institute of Archaeology Gordon Square
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1520915
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