Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Ability to Throw Critical to Human Development

Thursday, June 27, 2013

CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS—The oldest spear point ever found dates back 500,000 years, yet it's known that humans have been hunting animals for at least the last 2 million years. According to a team of researchers at Harvard, several evolutionary changes that came together in the body of Homo erectus made humans the only animals who could throw an object fast and hard, allowing them to hurl pointed wooden sticks at prey. The scientists analyzed the throwing motion of chimps and compared it to that of modern day humans. A looser shoulder joint, a widening of the hips, and the twisting of the upper arm bone, known as the humerus contributed to humans ability to throw much better than chimps. “The ability to throw was one of a handful of changes that enabled us to become carnivores, which then triggered a host of changes that occurred later in our evolution,” Harvard biologist Daniel Lieberman said. “If it were not for our ability to throw, we would not be who we are today.”