Americas’ Oldest Weapon Discovered by the Archaeologists in Idaho

Americas' Oldest Weapon Discovered by the Archaeologists in Idaho, and Points to New Evidence of America’s Earliest Encounters With Asia.

Dec 28, 2022By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
Americas' oldest weapon
Despite their small size, scientists say these dart-like weapon heads were “deadly.” Loren Davis / SWNS


Americas’ oldest weapon expands the timeline of human invention. The weapon is thousands of years older than any previously found on the continent. The tools also suggest an early encounter with Asia. The archaeologists said they date back roughly 15,700 years.


Americas’ Oldest Weapon Helped Fill Gaps In the Crafting History

Americas' oldest weapon
An overview of the Cooper’s Ferry site in the lower Salmon River canyon of western Idaho.
Loren Davis / SWNS


Archaeologists uncovered 14 projectile points used by early Americans in Idaho. They are roughly 15,700 years old. This makes them the Americas’ oldest weapon heads ever documented, according to a new study published in the journal Science Advances.


Researchers also said the findings help fill gaps in the history of how early humans in the Americas crafted and used stone weapons. Similar stone points found at the same site, on traditional Nez Perce land. But still, they are about 2,300 years younger than this latest cache of weapon heads.


Americas' oldest weapon
An overview of the Cooper’s Ferry site. Screenshot


“These discoveries add very important details about what the archaeological record of the earliest peoples of the Americas looks like”, said Oregon State University professor Loren Davis. Davis also led the recent dig that unearthed the “razor sharp” weapon heads. “It’s one thing to say: “We think people were here in the Americas 16,000 years ago”. It’s another thing to measure it by finding well-made artifacts they left behind”, added Davis.

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Full and fragmentary projectile points are razor sharp, ranging from about 1.3-5cm (0.5-2in) long. Also, they have two distinct ends – one sharpened and one stemmed. As well as a symmetrical bevelled shape if looked at head-on. Researchers suspect they were likely attached to darts, rather than arrows or spears.


North America and Northeast Asia People Met Much Sooner Than Thought?

Stone projectile points discovered buried inside and outside of pit features at the Cooper’s Ferry site, Area B. See SWNS story SWSCweapons. The oldest weapon heads ever found in the Americas – dating back 16,000 years – have been uncovered. The projectile points discovered by archaeologists in Idaho are around 3,000 years older than any found before. Scientists say they were likely attached to darts, rather than arrows or spears, and, despite the small size, they were “deadly” hunting weapons. The 13 full and fragmentary projectile points – “razor sharp” and ranging from about 0.5 to two inches long – are from roughly 15,700 years ago, according to carbon-14 dating.


All told, the team’s excavation at Cooper’s Ferry, near the Salmon River, uncovered over 65,000 artifacts. The finely honed darts are also strikingly similar to those seen in Hokkaido, Japan, dating from 16,000 to 20,000 years ago, Davis noted. This also adds intrigue to the hypothesis that ice age peoples of North America and Northeast Asia met much sooner than we can yet prove.


“By comparing these points with other sites of the same age and older, we can infer the spatial extents of social networks where this technological knowledge was shared between people”, said Davis. Scientists also say the darts, despite their small size, may have been “deadly weapons”.


“There’s an assumption that early projectile points had to be big to kill large game. However, smaller projectile points mounted on darts will penetrate deeply and cause tremendous internal damage”, Dr Davis said. “You can hunt any animal we know about with weapons like these”, he added.

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By Angela DavicNews, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and AnalysisAngela is a journalism student at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade and received a scholarship for continued education in Prague. She completed her internship at the daily newspaper DANAS and worked as an executive editor at Talas.