Spear thrower carved as a mammoth

Late Magdalenian, about 12,500 years old
From the rockshelter of Montastruc, Tarn-et-Garonne, France

Carved from a reindeer antler

Spear throwers came into use about 18,000 years ago in western Europe. They consist of a straight handle with a hook at one end. The bottom of the spear fits against the hook and the spear shaft and spear thrower handle are held together with the hook end by the shoulder. Launching the spear in this way sends it with more force and speed and across a longer distance than if it was simply thrown by hand.

The hook ends of spear throwers are frequently decorated with an animal. This example from Montastruc shows a mammoth. It is the only known example which has a hole for an eye (which probably held an insert of bone or stone). The hook is also unusual because it is an ancient repair. The original hook carved from the antler broke off and was mended by cutting a slot on the back and inserting a bone or antler replacement. The mammoth's tusks appear on each side of the handle, most of which was broken off in ancient times.

Find in the collection online

Spear thrower carved as a mammoth

  • Spearthrower in use

    Spearthrower in use


More information


A. Sieveking, A catalogue of Palaeolithic ar (London, The British Museum Press, 1987)


Length: 12.400 cm

Museum number

P&EE Sieveking Catalogue no. 551

not found on MERLIN

Christy Collection


Find in the collection online

Search highlights

There are over 4,000 highlight objects to explore