Bow Hunting: How Did Our Ancestors Bring Great Beasts?

Aug 3, 2020

Archery is nothing new. Dating way back to the Stone Age, the earliest known regular usage of archery goes back to ancient Egypt. And the Egyptians, back in 3,000 B.C., were using archery for one single purpose: hunting. 

Tiny blades that were discovered in South Africa highlight just how old this nifty weapon is. Humans had bows and arrows 71,000 years ago—and we’re still using them. 

Step Down, Katniss Everdeen

Humans have a history of hunting—after all, the first-known of our kind began as plain old hunter-gatherer societies. That’s how human civilization developed.

It began with sharpened sticks—spears, if you will—but we were quick to develop the bow and arrow. Other tools like the harpoon and nets were also commonly used. These were simple weapons—but effective. 

Our own bow and arrows are far more advanced and refined than the crude weapons our Stone Age cousins used. The thrill, however, is still the same.

How Did Our Ancestors Do It?

man notching an arrow

As a tool, the bow and arrow were indispensable. It could be used from a distance, which ensured that humans hunting great prehistoric beasts could shoot from a safe distance. Unlike a lance, the bow and arrow don’t require you to venture near danger. They also played with the shapes of the arrow—sometimes changing it in accordance with what animal they were hunting. 

Birds—whooper swans and passenger pigeons—were the usual quarry. Fur-coated animals—such as the hare—were also commonly hunted. But our ancestors didn’t just hunt birds and small mammals. There’s evidence that humans were hunting adversaries as big as mammoths in the Ice Age. 

Bringing Down the Beasts

Of course, even with weapons and classic human intelligence, they knew they couldn’t take down huge beasts on their own. That only happens in Middle Earth. They wouldn’t charge the animal alone, or without a plan. Groups of hunters, working together, carrying an assortment of tools, would close in. Bows and arrows would fly from afar to weaken the beast, and only then would they move in with their sharp spears and harpoons. 

Tales of these glorious hunts can be found on the many cave paintings these ancient artists have left behind. 

Returning to South African Roots

It was in South Africa’s Pinnacle Point that archaeologists discovered tiny blades, helping researcher determine just how old this weapon is. How about a trip to the same South Africa, or a safari, to relive the common human history of bow hunting? If you want to feel how your ancestors felt when they closed in on a beast and brought it down with a hail of arrows, drop Ikamela Safaris a message. There’s something primal and utterly human about hunting—we were doing it 2 million years ago.


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