Weapons in transition: Reappraisal of the origin of complex projectiles in the Levant based on the Boker Tachtit stratigraphic sequence

Alla Yaroshevich, Daniel Kaufman, Anthony Marks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The affiliation of complex, i.e., mechanically delivered projectiles, with Anatomically Modern Humans has led to a growing interest in the origin of these weapons in different geographic regions. The focus of these inquiries comprise processes related to human evolution, in particular trajectories of human expansion out of Africa, where the earliest complex projectiles had been documented. While the Levant constitutes the only land bridge connecting Africa with Eurasia – the earliest complex projectiles identified so far among the narrow elongated points characteristic of the local Upper Paleolithic (UP) Ahmarian do not have direct parallels in African contexts. Here we investigate the hypothesis of a local origin of Levantine complex projectiles based on the four-layered Emiran/Initial UP (IUP) stratigraphic sequence of Boker Tachtit – the best documented time span usually defined as Middle Paleolithic-UP transition in the Levant. The study incorporates analysis of diagnostic impact fractures, point metric characteristics, as well as their hafting-related features. The results indicate the use of high velocity weapons all through the Boker Tachtit sequence, starting with the Emiran and, in particular, with the thinned-base Emireh points – the type fossil of the culture. Furthermore, the comparison of the Boker Tachtit data with preceding and succeeding relevant archaeological record shows that the major increase in weapon velocity was associated with the emergence of the Emiran/IUP, thus supporting the possibility that complex projectiles in the Levant originated during this period. We further hypothesize that the prominent change in points' metrics associated with the subsequent UP Ahmarian – the transition from broad-based to narrow-based points – may have been related to transformations in weapon design, e.g., an introduction of lateral hafting, and not necessarily with the introduction of a new kind of weapon. This study allows considering the origin of complex projectiles in the Levant within the framework of the Emiran-UP technological continuity that is characteristic of the local record. Even though the precise kind of projectiles applied in Boker Tachtit cannot be delineated at the current phase of the research - the use of high velocity weapons can be incorporated into the technological package that defines the Emiran. This additional technological trait can contribute to future attempts to allocate the origin of this culture – yet another issue which has long been discussed in the context of modern human evolution.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105381
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
StatePublished - Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd


  • Complex projectiles
  • Diagnostic impact factures
  • Emiran
  • High velocity weapons
  • Initial Upper Paleolithic
  • Levant
  • Weapons design

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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