Sheina Lew-Levy

Grant Type

Post PhD Research Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Cambridge, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9789

Approve Date

April 27, 2019

Project Title

Lew-Levy, Sheina (Cambridge, U. of) "Hand-thrown spears: Ballistics, accuracy and learning to hunt among BaYaka Congo Basin foragers"

DR. SHEINA LEW-LEVY, Cambridge University, Cambridge, United Kingdom, received funding in April 2019 to aid research on “Hand-thrown Spears: Ballistics, Accuracy and Learning to Hunt among BaYaka Congo Basin Foragers.” Understanding the use of thrown spears, and the transmission of knowledge for hunting with these weapons, has important implications for evaluating changes in the biological, cultural and social evolution of humans. In spite of the significance of spears, most studies of spear throwing rely on experiments conducted by untrained participants or historical ethnographic information. Here, we aimed to investigate the effectiveness of hand-thrown spears alongside the acquisition of spear hunting knowledge among Congo Basin BaYaka foragers, a population that regularly uses spears for subsistence hunting. Our research goals were to determine: 1) the ballistics and accuracy of thrown spears; 2) how strength, size and experience contribute to spear throwing proficiency; and 3) how spear hunting knowledge is transmitted from one generation to the next. BaYaka male adults and teenagers participated in interviews about how they learned to hunt with spears, threw spears in an experimental setup, and participated in paired adolescentadult spear hunts while wearing GoPros, in order to examine how the teaching of spear hunting ocurred in this population. Once analyzed, these data will make important advances in understanding technological transitions, life history, and learning mechanisms among the BaYaka, with implications for understanding changes in our evolutionary past as well.


Lew-levy, Sheina, et al.  2021. BaYaka Adolescent Boys Nominate Accessible Adult Men as Preferred Spear Hunting Models. Current Anthropology, 62(5).

Lew-Levy, Sheina, et al.   2022. Costly teaching contributes to the acquisition of spear hunting skill among BaYaka forager adolescents. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 289(20220164).