The Natufian hunting conundrum: spears, atlatls, or bows? musculoskeletal and armature evidence



Research efforts to identify, measure, and interpret musculoskeletal stress markers (MSM) provide data which have utility as independent tests of archaeological hypotheses. The purpose of this paper is to examine MSM from the upper appendicular skeletal elements of prehistoric hunter gatherer groups in the southern Levant of southwest Asia to investigate what forms of weapon technology were being used. Examination of 72 Natufian (12 500–10 000 B.P.) individuals from sites in Jordan and Palestine comprise the skeletal data set. Observations and ordinal measures of the grade and type of MSM reflect higher functional demands and pronounced right side asymmetry among Natufian males. Among the 22 muscle and ligament attachment sites examined, males scored consistently higher, significantly so, with respect to a suite of synergistic muscles that are associated with overhand throwing motions. While this evidence does not preclude the use of bow and arrow technology during the Natufian, it does suggest that hand- and atlatl-delivered projectiles may have continued to play an important role in hunting activities. © 1998 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.