Tag Archives: experimental archaeology

Experimental Archaeology: Neanderthal Spear Technology

PhD student Alice La Porta is undertaking archaeological experiments on the nature of Neanderthal spear use this summer as part of her PhD project on Middle Palaeolithic stone tool projectile technology. Read all about her research below!

Did Neanderthal use stone-tipped wooden spears as throwing hunting weapons?

Alice la Porta during the first set of experiments (summer 2015), at Aöza Open-air Museum during the “Mesolithic Living” project.

In Europe, a small number of wooden spears have been found in archaeological contexts from the Lower and Middle Palaeolithic (c. 1,200,000-40,000 years ago), such as at Schöningen, Clacton and Lehringen. The first suggestion that such spears had stone tips comes in the European Middle Palaeolithic, the time of the Neanderthals, in the form of distinctive stone points, also called Levallois or Mousterian points. But how can we be certain that these stone points were used by Neanderthals as spear-heads for their wooden spears? Analysing the utilization wear and the impact fractures present on the surfaces of modern, experimentally-used spear-tips and archaeological stone points, using optical and digital microscopes, is one approach to inferring the prehistoric uses of these tools. Continue reading

Grants Awarded to Exeter Archaeology PhD Students

Two of our PhD students have recently been awarded grants for archaeological experiments and analysis related to their PhD topics!

Alice La Porta

Alice La Porta

Alice La Porta, one of our AHRC SWW DTP PhD students under the supervision of Linda Hurcombe and Rob Hosfield (University of Reading), has been awarded two grants. The first grant will fund Alice’s experiments into the uses of Middle Palaeolithic (i.e. Neanderthal) stone tools, with an emphasis on their performance and subsequent use-traces, for which Alice will be spending time at open-air museums in Germany, Denmark and Finland. The second grant will enable Alice to make a study visit to the Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social in Tarragona, to examine a Middle Palaeolithic archaeological collection, with a particular emphasis on use-wear analysis.

Matthew Knight

Matthew Knight, another of our AHRC SWW DTP PhD students, supervised by Linda Hurcombe and Joanna Brück (University of Bristol), has also been awarded a grant for experimental activities. Matt will be conducting experiments with a variety of Bronze Age metal objects that have never been undertaken before. He will be utilising replica daggers, swords, socketed axes and barbed spearheads in a variety of use experiments, before subjecting them to a series of destructive practices to reproduce criteria and conditions seen on prehistoric artefacts. These experiments will result in the first ever reference collection for studying destruction of Bronze Age metalwork.


Very well done to both Alice and Matt; we can’t wait to see the results of your experiments!