As a weapon, spears have had a long and storied history. They were used to take down mammoths and other animals by early hunters and were later used in battles and even the gladiator rings. Now, a new study is stating spears were human weapons well before any of these events took place. According to the study, spears popped up 500,000 years ago, a number that is 200,000 years earlier than archaeologists previously believed.

Jayne Wilkins, an archaeologist at the University of Toronto, is an author on the study that was published this week in the journal, Science. Initially, she and her team encountered some sharp-tipped stones in the northern cape of South Africa. It was easy to date these stones as 500,000 years old, but she and her team were unsure if the stones were used as spears, or as handheld weapons for cutting, which have been known to exist for much longer.

According to The Guardian, Wilkins took photographs and studied the stones under a microscope to determine if the tools were used for a daily purpose or as spears, determining that the wear of the sharp tip of the stones meant the items had been more likely used as spears. This means that human and Neanderthal ancestors, Homo heidelbergensis, can currently be credited with generating the idea of spears. Since meat-eating leads to more energy and more energy leads to bigger brains, determining that the species had access to better hunting via spears is kind of a big deal. We can thank the 500,000-year-old species for giving us the large egos we have today.

Photo credit @Jane Wilkins

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