Oldest Neolithic Bow Unearthed in Spain

Spanish archaeologists have unearthed the most ancient Neolithic bow found to date in Europe at the lake site of La Draga.

The bow discovered at the Neolithic site of La Draga in Spain (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona)

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 BC, 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 organization 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 analyze the characteristics of these tools. The current discovery opens new perspectives in understanding how these farming communities lived and organized 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 at 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 of bows have been found in Northern Europe dating from between the 8th and 9th centuries BC 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 BC, 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.