Human ancestors living in Central Europe between 320,000 and 300,000 years ago may have used wooden spears to fend off fearsome, meat-eating rivals — saber-toothed cats.
From 2011 to 2013, a team led by paleontologist Jordi Serangeli of the University of Tübingen in Germany found five teeth and a partial leg bone from two of these roughly 200-kilogram predators at a site where researchers previously discovered ancient wooden spears. Whatever hominid species made the spears must have needed them to defend against attacks by saber-toothed cats, the researchers propose online October 23 in the Journal of Human Evolution.
Limited signs of wear on teeth from one saber-toothed cat, found about 100 meters from the spear excavation, indicate that the creature was relatively young. Pits, scrapes and other marks on the leg bone of an adult male, found in spear-bearing sediment, indicate that hominids used the bone as a hammer for making stone tools.
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