Experimental evidence for lithic projectile injuries: Improving identification of an under-recognised phenomenon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Between the Upper Palaeolithic and the spread of metallurgy stone-tipped projectiles were of great importance both for subsistence and as weapons. Whilst finds of embedded projectile points in human and animal bone are not uncommon, identifications of such wounds in the absence of embedded points are rare. Previous experimentation involving archaic projectiles has not examined the effects of stone-tipped projectiles on bone. This paper presents the results of experiments in which samples of animal bone were impacted with flint-tipped arrows. The results demonstrate that positive identifications can be made, both grossly and microscopically, of bony trauma caused by flint projectiles. In addition, flint projectiles are shown to often leave small embedded fragments, which can also be identified microscopically. These results compare well with archaeological examples of suspected 'arrow wounds' and the article demonstrates the practical application of this data in identifying such injuries. By facilitating the recognition of projectile trauma these findings will have significance both for the investigation of hunting strategies and levels of conflict amongst early human societies. (c) 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)540-553
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2007


  • trauma, archery, hunting, experimental archaeology, conflict, projectile