Concluding research on Schöningen’s wooden artefacts published

D. Leder, T. Terberger

30 years after the initial discovery of humankind’s oldest completely preserved hunting weapons, the complete wooden assemblage from Schöningen has been finally studied and published. Cutting-edge technology including 3D-digital microscopy, µCt-scans and MRI-scans sheds new light on these 300,000 years old finds.

During rescue excavations at the open-cast lignite mine at Schöningen, Lower Saxony. Germany, a wealth of lithic artefacts, wooden artefacts, faunal remains, and other environmental materials have been retrieved from a 300,000 years old lakeshore of Schöningen. Among the wooden tools, spears and throwing sticks have been published over the course of the decades, giving the site the nickname Spear Horizon and decisively contributing to the hunter vs scavengers debate at that time. The majority of the wooden artefacts remained unpublished though. A study financed by the German Research Foundation DFG and part of the CCEHN project has closed this gap now presenting the new study here.

The study shows hunting weapons were more numerous than previously envisioned. They were brought to the site as finished tools from afar. Broken hunting weapons have been repaired and recycled on-site while two new tool types used in domestic activities speak for a more complex site function beyond that of a killing-and-butchering site. The technological study shows the fine workmanship and elaborate techniques involved in woodworking, changing our perspective on technological complexity at this time. With 187 wooden artefacts Schöningen 13 II-4 (the Spear Horizon) holds the largest assemblage of Pleistocene wooden artefacts worldwide.


Dirk Leder, Jens Lehmann, Annemieke Milks, Tim Koddenberg, Michael Sietz, Matthias Vogel, Utz Böhner, Thomas Terberger. The wooden artefacts from Schöningen’s Spear Horizon and their place in human evolution. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 121(12), 2024. DOI:10.1073/pnas.2320484121

Fig. 1. Spears and throwing sticks discovered at the Spear Horizon from Schöningen were used in hunting large and small game. Fragments have been reconstructed in this drawing. Photos: MINKUSIMAGES, Christa Fuchs, Matthias Vogel. Copyright holder: Niedersächsisches Landesamt für Denkmalpflege (NLD).
Fig. 2. The spear point of Spear V has been intensively shaped as evidenced by numerous annual rings and the flattened branch knot. Photo: MINKUSIMAGES. Copyright holder: Niedersächsisches Landesamt für Denkmalpflege (NLD).
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