Skip to comments.La Draga Neolithic site in Banyoles yields the oldest Neolithic bow discovered in Europe
Posted on 06/29/2012 2:01:29 PM PDT by Red Badger
Archaeological research carried out at the Neolithic site of La Draga, near the lake of Banyoles, has yielded the discovery of an item which is unique in the western Mediterranean and Europe. The item is a bow which appeared in a context dating from the period between 5400-5200 BCE, corresponding to the earliest period of settlement. It is a unique item given that it is the first bow to be found in tact at the site. According to its date, it can be considered chronologically the most ancient bow of the Neolithic period found in Europe. The study will permit the analysis of aspects of the technology, survival strategies and social organisation of the first farming communities which settled in the Iberian Peninsula. The bow is 108 cm long and presents a plano-convex section. Worth mentioning is the fact that it is made out of yew wood (Taxus baccata) as were the majority of Neolithic bows in Europe.
In previous archaeological campaigns, fragments of two bows were found (in 2002 and 2005) also from the same time period, but since they are fragmented it is impossible to analyse the characteristics of these tools. The current discovery opens new perspectives in understanding how these farming communities lived and organised themselves. These bows could have served different purposes, such as hunting, although if one takes into account that this activity was not all that common in the La Draga area, it cannot be ruled out that the bows may have represented elements of prestige or been related to defensive or confrontational activities.
Remains have been found of bows in Northern Europe (Denmark, Russia) dating from between the 8th and 9th centuries BCE among hunter-gatherer groups, although these groups were from the Paleolithic period, and not the Neolithic. The majority of bows from the Neolithic period in Europe can be found in central and northern Europe. Some fragments of these Neolithic bows from central Europe date from the end of the 6th millennium BCE, between 5200-5000 BCE, although generally they are from later periods, often more than a thousand years younger than La Draga. For this reason archaeologists can affirm that the three bows found at La Draga are the most ancient bows in Europe from the Neolithic period.
The research carried out at the La Draga site is financed by the Department of Culture of the Government of Catalonia and the Spanish Ministry for Economy and Competitiveness. This project is being conducted under the coordination of the County Archaeological Museum of Banyoles, with the participation of the UAB Department of Prehistory, the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology of the CSIC Institute Milà i Fontanals, the National Museum of Archaeology of Catalonia and the Centre for Underwater Archaeology of Catalonia. The excavation includes the participation of archaeology students from UAB and other universities in Spain and Europe.
La Draga is located in the town of Banyoles, belonging to the county of Pla de l'Estany, and is an archaeological site corresponding to the location in which one of the first farming communities settled in the north-east of the Iberian Peninsula. The site is located on the eastern part of the Banyoles Lake and dates back to 5400 and 5000 BCE. The site occupies 8000 sq m and stretches out 100 m along the lake's shore and 80 m towards the east. Part of the site is totally submerged in the lake, while other parts are located on solid ground. The first digs were conducted between the years 1990 and 2005, under the scientific leadership of the County Archaeological Museum of Banyoles. Since 1994, excavations were also carried out by the Centre for Underwater Research (Museum of Archaeology of Catalonia). The current project (2008-2013) includes participation by the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and the Spanish National Research Council.
The site at La Draga is exceptional for several reasons. Firstly, due to its antiquity, which is considered to be one of the oldest of the Neolithic period existing in the Iberian Peninsula. Secondly, because it is an open-air site with a fairly continuous occupation. Lastly, and surely most remarkably, because of its exceptional conditions in which it is conserved. The archaeological levels are located in the phreatic layer surrounding Lake Banyoles, giving way to anaerobic conditions which favour the conservation of organic material. These circumstances make La Draga a unique site in all of the Iberian Peninsula, since it is the only one known to have these characteristics. In Europe, together with Dispilo in Greece and La Marmota in Italy, it is one of the few lake settlements from the 6th millennium BCE.
The phenomenon of Neolithic lake settlements is well known in the more modern chronologies of central Europe, where there is an abundance of lakes and humid environments, but extremely rare outside this geographic area. For this reason, the La Draga site is well-known amongst specialised scientific sectors and attracts researchers from around the world because of the quality of the data which can be obtained from this archaeological context. La Draga is a palaeodiverse island offering a set of extraordinary bioarchaeological elements, key for the analysis of how farming and livestock rearing communities came into existence in Europe.
The complete bow discovered during this year's campaign. Credit: Universitat Autňnoma de Barcelona
The process of the work was carried out at the La Draga site in Griona, Spain. Credit: Universitat Autňnoma de Barcelona
we were just talking about this on another thread too.
That's either an ICBM trail or an airliner condensation trail. Those other two long things look like 'rods from god'.
Oh, I misread it my first time through it. I thought they said it was the oldest bow ever found in europe, which would make it the oldest ever found in the world. That just isn’t the case. Still pretty cool though. It makes a person wonder why the oldest bows are found in europe when common knowledge says civilization started in the fertile crescent...or the indus valley, or china...depending on your personal bias. But why is the oldest bow not found in one of these 3 places?
Germans always make good stuff...........
Seriously though, wood does not fare well in those places. The Bible speaks of burning the enemies weapons so it must have been common practice in those areas. I would imagine that any bows that were used back then were eventually burned as firewood. Unless someone finds a long lost tomb, well preserved and sealed, any bows and arrows from those ares will not be forthcoming any time soon.
The Chinese have barely scratched the surface of excavating the tomb of Emperor Qin and may take a hundred years to do so.
But that would only date back to the 3rd century BC.......
Put a bow on that bow and take a bow. Very cool. We know very little about our ancient ancestors. FWIW I found an Indian spear point in my vegetable garden which (discovery) blew me away. I will always be in awe of the kid who found the mastodon tusk in his lawn. Buried treasure. That’s awesome. sd
those damn jerries! no wonder their stuff is better...they had a head start!
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Thanks Red Badger. I feel a little neolithic myself, it's been a long week.
I can recall reading about the early use of ochre and shell beads in South Africa some 85,000 ya. In the same cave system they found arrowheads at the 60,000 year level but no wood had survived. Arrowheads are so constructed that they would not be of any use in a larger tool like a spear or smaller throwing spear. Based on that logic, arrowheads have been found in the Middle East, Europe, India and the Far East from periods far before this bow. The Arians had bows and arrows when they came south into India and their religious myths tell of bows and arrows in their ancient past.
My colleague, "'Bodark' (Bois D' Arc) Phil" Cross, the famed Caddo Indian bowyer, makes "Osage Orange" bows that are much more slab-like (far less "tillering").
That little jewel looks fragile -- especially out on those slender tips...
The workmanship of early humans never ceases to amaze me. (How is it that some of the earliest Americans made projectile points (Clovis, Folsom) that are still considered to be the pinnacle of the flintknapping art?)
In some ways, it seems that man is DEvolving... ;-(
Speaking of which, has any of you picked up on the stories of looting and destruction of early Egyptian artifacts since the Muzzie Brotherhood has taken over Egypt? I certainly hope those savages don't "turn Taliban" and start destroying all that "infidel art" in Egypt!
when that arrow head meant the difference between dining and starving, you can betcha every ounce of ingenuity was poured into it.
I’m a lithic technologist, and I take the opposite view: When your stomach is growling with hunger, anything pointed enough to poke a hole will do; when you are fat and happy, then (and only then) can you afford to take the time, effort (and risk) to turn out out a perfect, ultra-thinned work of art...
The atlatl (and "heavy caliber" 'dart points') served very well for a long span of time. As long as heavy game predominated, I would think there was little incentive to abandon the "30.06" (atlatl dart) for the ".223" (tiny arrowpoint)...
(It is enlightening and worth the exercise to look up the distance record for an atlatl dart throw...)
The arguement that the bow and arrow was initially used for small game and bird attracts my interest. For just the reasons you state, there was no crying need for arrows to bring down big game but getting squirrels out of a tree?