Grant TypePost PhD Research Grant
Institutional AffiliationCambridge, U. of
Grant numberGr. 9789
Approve DateApril 27, 2019
Project TitleLew-Levy, Sheina (Cambridge, U. of) "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 aim 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 are 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. We expect to find that BaYaka foragers will be more accurate spear throwers than javelin athletes and participants untrained in throwing spears from existing experimental archeology replications; that strength, size, and experience all contribute to effective spear throwing; and that teaching will be common in the transmission of spear hunting, a complex domain. The proposed project will make important advances in understanding technological transitions, life history, and learning mechanisms in our evolutionary past.