The earliest bows and arrows outside Africa have been found in a Sri Lankan rainforest

Fa-Hien Lena in the Sri Lankan rainforest yielded a range of the artefacts recovered from its 48,000-year-old archaeological deposit. (Credits: M. C. Langley / SWNS) The oldest use of bows and arrows by prehistoric humans outside of Africa has been discovered in Asia along with the world’s oldest beads.

In the 48,000-year-old cache of bone tools excavated from a Sri Lankan cave, researchers found the earliest known bow-and-arrow technology in Europe or Asia.

This new archaeological research also unearthed implements that may have been used to make clothing – a development traditionally believed to have been used as protection against the cold.

Other artefacts found at the site include decorative beads made from the pointed tips of marine snail shells, which likely came from the coast through trade, and the world’s oldest beads made entirely of red ochre.

This evidence of ‘projectile technology’, personal ornamentation and long-distance social networks in a tropical rainforest, offer new insight into how early Homo sapiens adapted to diverse, extreme environments as they spread across the globe.

Some of the main finds from the site include remarkable single and doubled pointed bone tools that scientists suspect were used to harvest tropical resources.

Tools made on bone and teeth were used to hunt small monkeys and squirrels, work skins or plants, and perhaps create nets at Fa-Hien Lena, Sri Lanka 48,000-years-ago. (Credits: M. C. Langley / SWNS) These tools found in the Fa-Hien Lena cave deep in the heart of Sri Lanka’s Wet Zone forests, are earlier than the first similar technology found in Europe.

Tools and artefacts from between 48,000 and 4,000 years ago were unearthed at Fa-Hien Lena – the site of the earliest human fossils in South Asia.

The researchers analysed 130 arrow points made from animal bone that showed impact fractures consistent with hunting damage.

Originally used to target adult monkeys, the tools increased in length over time for the purpose of hunting larger mammals, such as pigs and deer.

Notches and wear patterns showed that the points were attached to thin shafts, but they are too short and heavy to have been the tips of blowgun darts..

This technology included small bone arrow points, and skin or plant-working tools. (Credits: M. C. Langley / SWNS) Therefore, the researchers concluded the tools represent the remnants of bow-and-arrow toolkits – the earliest definitive evidence for high-powered projectile hunting in a tropical rainforest environment.

As well arrow tips, the researchers discovered 29 bone tools that were used to work animal skins, plant fibres, or both.

The authors believe that clothing made with these tools may have served as protection from insect-borne diseases.

Scientists also showed that other bone tools may have been used for making nets or...