|Following his talk on Neolithic Farming, we were delighted to welcome back Professor Emeritus Peter Rowley-Conwy to tell us about “Hunting the Biggest Beasts: Aurochs and Elk in Prehistoric Europe”. His talk discussed how prehistoric man might have killed these large animals and looked at evidence for the hunting techniques in the archaeological record.
Elk or moose were stalked and then hunted using tanged point arrows. Prehistoric sites where elk bones have been butchered have often been found close to water, suggesting that the animals may have been hunted in lakes. Some rock art paintings appear to show such scenes. Ethnographic evidence provides insight into the more recent hunting of moose using canoes and harpoons.
Aurochs, we learned, were huge, muscular, and intelligent. With huge horns they stood at 180cm at the shoulder and weighed up to 900kg, they were 50cm taller than a modern Spanish fighting bull and were nearly double the weight. Getting close would have been highly dangerous, so hunting techniques were different. The skeleton of the Prejlerup Auroch, from Denmark, was found to contain flint microliths, showing that bows and arrows were used to hunt these animals. Mesolithic bows have been found in Europe, although none so far in the UK. They are carved from the dense wood of elm saplings, which gives the bow its spring. The size of the aurochs suggests a more substantial weapon, such as a spear, would have been needed to complete the killing. Considerable skill and expertise would have been required.
It was a fascinating talk and we all enjoyed having a speaker with us again in the hall and having the opportunity to chat afterwards.