Did Ancient Cro-Magnon Peoples Create Sophiscated Weapons?

The Theory

Through extensive fieldwork and research, scientists are convinced that Cro-Magnon peoples (40,000 to 12,000 years ago) were very skilled in manufacturing highly effective weaponry for the hunt. Cro-Magnon hunters must of had specialized knowledge of their prey as well as of their Cro-Magnon weaponry.

The animals of their time were very large, such as the wooly mammoth, and could only be taken down by effective weapons. Widely known throughout academia, ancient people did hunt these large mammals and did bring them down. However, it is unknown how the Cro-Magnons crafted and designed their weapons. Scientists have set out to decide the Cro-Magnons’ knowledge of their weaponry to help other researchers understand the skill of these ancient hunters.

The Evidence


From many archeological finds across Europe, many spear-points of different design and material makeup have been found dating from between 40,000 and 22,000 years ago. These points can be broken up into four distinct types.

The oldest type is split-based having a lozenge-shaped spear point. Around 30,000 years ago, a spear point with a rounded base and a thicker lozenge-shaped point became the main design. 2,000 years later, a spindle-shaped point with a tapered base was introduced. A fourth type was made of bone and had a beveled base. With different shaped points and bases, it is clear that Cro-Magnon people were trying to perfect their weaponry to make hunting more efficient.

Material was also another distinct attribute of each spear-point. Archeologists have found spear points made of bone, antler, ivory, and stone. Generally, most points made by the Cro-Magnons were made with either bone or antler, because both were available, easily manufactured, and mostly maintainable.

Scientific research has shown that bones and antlers are very similar, except a few distinct differences. Unlike antler, bone is softer and less durable. This means that hunters had more trouble maintaining bone spear points, because the bone would break upon impact or be too difficult to re-sharpen once cracked. Thus, many spear-points were made from antler because it is more durable, elastic, and easily maintained.

Weapons Test

With various shaped-points, bases, and different materials, scientists have begun a tedious job of replicating each spear-point using the tools of the Cro-Magnon artisans. Carefully replicating each groove, marking, and dimensions of each point would in effect create a similar model and ultimately give researchers a chance to test out their theory.

Instead of assuming how effective each spear-point was, scientists proceeded to test them by shooting each spear-point into animal hide. Using a calibrated crossbow, force could be set to that or near the force a Cro-Magnon hunter would have used. Testing the durability of the material, the effectiveness of each shape, and the function of the base, researchers were able to find out interesting answers to their theory.


Spear-points made from bone and antler were more lethal than expected, because they would easily cut through hide, ribs, and even femurs. Bone points usually broke in the middle and antler usually broke near the tip. Clearly, spear-points made of bone were very difficult to repair while antler could just be re-sharpened. Also, the tests proved how aerodynamic a point is as well as what purpose the base posed.

Older points, such as the lozenge shaped points, were found to be more awkward and less aerodynamic while newer spindle-shaped and bevel points were more aerodynamic. The bases of each also proved very functional. Early bases, such as the split-base, were difficult to haft to the spear and were not meant to be changeable. Later types, such as the tapered and rounded bases, were more able to be removed and repaired. Also, later bases could be easily sharpened into a new point using the old point as the new base.

Clearly, Cro-Magnon artisans were trying very hard to perfect their weaponry. Early spear-points are less aerodynamic and hardly maintainable, while the later points are aerodynamic, and easily repairable. Cro-Magnon hunters did create sophisticated weaponry that could easily kill their prey.