London: Neanderthals made weapons that were capable of killing at a distance, a new archaeology research suggests.

The findings, published in the journal Scientific Reports, lends further weight to the argument that Neanderthals were more cognitively advanced than we once thought.

It also provides insight into the development of technical innovation in our own evolutionary past, including innovations designed to kill.

Neanderthals were a species of archaic humans who lived in Eurasia sometime between 450,000 years ago and 45,000 years ago. We not only share a common ancestor with Neanderthals, but around 2% of the genomes of modern Eurasian humans is Neanderthal DNA.

It’s known that Neanderthals depended on animals as an important dietary resource, yet how they acquired that meat is still not fully understood. It was once thought Neanderthals were merely opportunistic scavengers, but increasing evidence suggests that by at least 120,000 years ago, they were sophisticated hunters that often collaborated in spear hunts.

The oldest known artefact that Neanderthals potentially used in hunting is a roughly 400,000 year old wooden spear tip found in 1911 at Clacton-on-Sea in England. As the Clacton spear is just a fragment though, it has been difficult to ascertain how it was used: whether for hunting, for aggressive scavenging (scaring away other predators), or simply for digging.