Prehistoric spear-thrower

Prehistoric spear-thrower

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Credit: KENNIS AND KENNIS/MSF/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Prehistoric spear-thrower. Artwork of how a spear-thrower (or atlatl) is used to throw a feathered dart. At top and centre, the dart is loaded. At bottom, it is being thrown. The angular momentum imparted means dart speeds of 150 kilometres per hour can be achieved, making this a lethal weapon in the hands of a skilled hunter. In the background is a cave painting of an animal wounded by an atlatl dart. The earliest such weapons were found at Schoningen, Germany, in the 1990s, dating to over 300,000 years ago.

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