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Ancient points

June 26, 2019

Humans have been using eyed needles for at least 50,000 years. Neanderthals, Denisovans, and our own species, all. (Cite.)

We also have been using bows and arrows for the same length of time. Those tools get archaeological attention partly because they are important, and partly because they survive. Archaeologists collect, categorize, date, and reverse engineer needles and arrow points.

Those technologies are intertwined. Literally. They point to a more basic technology, to wit, cordwork. Bows need a string, which often is whipped to the bow. Even before the bow, spear and dart points had to be lashed to their shafts. Shaped bones would have been used as awls and marlinspikes to work those whippings and lashings, before they were fashioned into eyed needles.

Every group that did any of this had to have some way of turning the materials at hand into cording. Unlike the hard parts, that material generally would not survive the millennia. So we don’t have it. Nor do we know where else it was used, if those products did not survive. But it is a fair guess that a culture that has needles or bows, also makes a variety of useful thing that can be made with the underlying technology: tent, travois, bag, moccasin, etc.

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