People living in southern Arabia some 8,000 years ago created intricate stone weapons that were not just useful, but designed to "show off" their tool-making skills, a new study suggests.
In the study published in the PLOS ONE journal, researchers from the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), The Ohio State University and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany excavated and examined projectile points such as spearheads and arrowheads created during the Neolithic period in what is now Yemen and Oman.
Fluting involves a highly skilled process of chipping off flakes from a stone to create a distinctive channel. In North America, fluting was used just to make the arrowhead or spearhead more functional. But in Arabia, people also used it to demonstrate their technical skills.
According to the study, in North America, almost all fluting on projectile points was done near the base, so that the tool could be attached with string to the arrow or spear shaft. In other words, it had a practical application. The 8000-year-old stone weapons excavated in the Manayzah site in Yemen and Ad-Dahariz site in Oman, showed that some points with fluting have no useful purpose. As part of their study, the researchers attempted to create projectile points in a way similar to how researchers believe the ancient Arabians did.
In a report published on the university's website, Joy McCorriston, co-author of the study and professor of anthropology at Ohio State, said: "We made hundreds of attempts to learn how to do this, and we found it's very difficult. The question, then, is why would these Neolithic people do this when it was so costly and time-consuming and didn't make the points more useful?"
"Of course, we can't say for sure, but we think this was a way for skilled toolmakers to signal something to others, perhaps that one is a good hunter, or it could improve one's social standing in the community," he said.