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(CNN)Archaeologists digging in a cave in southern France say they have unearthed the earliest evidence of bow and arrow use outside Africa.
Grotte Mandrin, near Malataverne in the Rhône Valley, is a cave that was inhabited by early modern humans about 54,000 years ago. A research team recovered more than 300 tiny arrowheads intricately crafted in a style known as Neronian at the ancient site. Scientists believe the cave's inhabitants are the earliest Homo sapiens to have arrived in a region that had long been home to another group of hominins, the Neanderthals.
Almost 200 of the surprisingly delicate arrowheads showed patterns of impact and damage that suggested they had once been thrust, thrown or mechanically propelled in some way, according to the research published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances.
It's possible, the researchers said, that possessing advanced projectile weaponry, such as a bow and arrow, could have given these early Europeans an advantage over Neanderthals, who disappeared about 40,000 years ago.