Weapon Technology, Prey Size Selection, and Hunting Methods in Modern Hunter-Gatherers: Implications for Hunting in the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic



The ethnographic and ethnohistoric literature on a global sample of 96 recent hunting peoples was surveyed to explore the relationships between weapons, prey body-size, and terrestrial hunting techniques. Findings include: (1) an association between the use of hand-delivered spears, large-bodied prey, and hunting techniques dependent on physiographic features and specific terrain types; (2) less dependence on terrain features in hunting with atlatl-propelled darts, and; (3) use of the bow and arrow without regard to prey size or terrain features. Findings also suggest that technologically aided hunting of medium-to-large game before the development of long-distance projectile weaponry involved a narrow range of strategies and limitations of prey choice. The effective exploitation of a wide range of terrestrial mammals characteristic of modern humans occurred after the advent of efficient projectile weapons.