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How The Need To Hunt Smaller Prey Drove Human Evolution

The team analyzed findings from nine prehistoric sites in South Africa, East Africa, Spain, and France.

Changes in the hunting tools and the dominant animals in the sites from the Paleolithic period. 

Weapon technology and intelligence was driven in early man by having to hunt smaller prey, a new study reveals.

As larger prey became extinct, prehistoric people had to adapt to hunting smaller, faster prey.

And the change of direction eventually ended with the evolution of farming.

As they adapted, human weapons went from wooden-tipped and stone-tipped spears, all the way to the sophisticated bow and arrow.

The researchers from Tel Aviv University said that previous theories just had humans evolving and improving as they became more intelligent.

But they believe the loss of large game basically forced them into it.

Author of the study, published in the journal Quaternary, Dr. Miki Ben-Dor said: “In early archaeological sites we find mostly animal bones and stone tools used to hunt and process prey.

“The bones reflect the relative quantities of different species hunted by humans, such as elephants, fallow deer, etc.”


“We found that in all cases, at all sites, stone tips made with the Levallois technology appeared simultaneously with a relative decrease in the quantity of bones of large prey. “

The team analyzed findings from nine prehistoric sites in South Africa, East Africa, Spain, and France, inhabited during the transition from the Lower to the Middle Stone Age or Paleolithic, about 300,000 years ago, when Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens first emerged.

Homo Erectus, the ancestor of all later types of humans, used a wooden spear, probably thrusting it into large prey from up close.

Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals, emerging about 300,000 years ago, upgraded their spears by adding stone tips, which they produced with the more sophisticated Levallois technique.

These stone-tipped spears were apparently used for both thrusting and hurling.

About 50,000 years ago more complex hunting systems like the bow and arrow and spear thrower, were used regularly by Homo Sapiens.

At the end of the Upper Paleolithic, about 25,000 years ago, new hunting aids emerged, such as dogs, traps, and fishing hooks.

Study co-author Professor Ran Barkai from the University’s Department of Archaeology said: “This study was designed to examine a broader unifying hypothesis which explains the cultural and physiological evolution of prehistoric humans.

Dr Ben-Dor added: “Studies of contemporary hunter-gatherers indicate that a wooden spear is quite sufficient for hunting large prey like an elephant.

Prof Barkai concluded: “Why did humans become smarter all of a sudden? What was the advantage of having a large brain that consumes so much energy?



Produced in association with SWNS Talker

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