Copper arrowhead discovered in Canada. Featured Photo: Government of Yukon
Postcards from ancient hunters, eh? Well, not exactly. But modern society has received a few new messages from ancient hunters: small reminders of mankind’s pursuit of a meal. First, newly discovered cave art comes to us courtesy of whale hunters in Chile, while a bowhunter’s rare copper arrowhead was recently discovered nearly 900 years after it was lost on a Canadian hunt.
Each time a new report surfaces documenting the latest hunting-related discovery by archaeologists — which aren’t as rare as one might expect — it’s a reminder of how unusual the world’s current, non-hunting culture is compared to an entire history of people completely reliant on hunting.
According to Meat Eater, a collection of hunting adventures and wild game tasting notes written by Steven Rinella, “At this moment, in a per capita sense, there are fewer hunters on earth than at any other time in human history. Only about 5 percent of Americans hunt, down from about 7 percent a decade ago.”
Maybe it’s that distant relationship between mankind and hunting that makes the discoveries of hunting-related artifacts more profound. The stories these discoveries tell are foreign and new to many, while modern hunters possibly find a sense of validation in their steadfastness to carry on as their ancestors once did.
Ancient whale hunters in Chile
It’s in this spirit of storytelling and history that makeshift harpoons and rafts — used by ancient Chilean hunters to spear large whales — draws on the imagination and makes discoveries like the 1,500-year-old rock art so compelling.
Antiquity, the academic journal which published the art and other artifacts left by Chilean hunters, explores how crucial marine hunting was for the people of this era. Cave art in this region is not new. Ancient drawings were discovered by anthropologists in El Medano, a valley region of Chile, in the early 1900s. However, this recent study published by Antiquity is centered on art found just north of El Medano.
The National Geographic reports the most common type of art discovered shows the silhouettes of large fish, while other images show hunting scenes.
The report itself offers more detail:
“Hunting scenes are always represented in the same perspective: from the outside, giving a complete view of the act and never showing in first or principal plane the harpooning event. Rafts and prey are presented in a single visual plane, generally giving a natural perspective of the action, but without depicting the ocean itself. Although marine scenes (either of hunting from the surface or of the underwater animals) are the central theme of the rock art, the ocean itself is never explicitly represented.”
The academic journal also describes both the makeshift harpoon likely depicted in the rock art and the rafts employed in pre-Hispanic times, which were similar to those described centuries later by Europeans. You can read more about the Chilean cave art and ancient marine hunting here.
Nearly 900-year-old copper arrowhead discovered in Canada
A copper arrowhead discovered in Canada’s Yukon Territory was found to be about 850 years old by the University of Ottawa, where radiocarbon dating was used to make the determination.
According to a Fox News report earlier this month, “archaeologists have recovered about 250 objects from melting ice patches in Southern Yukon, almost all of which have been bows and arrows or throwing darts.”
The ice, of course, is a huge difference maker. It’s preserved these artifacts in ways they couldn’t have otherwise been preserved. Not only is the copper arrowhead considered unique, but the arrow’s shaft is made of a barbed antler. The barbed shaft was perfectly preserved by the ice.