These javelins are some 200,000 years older than previous examples of similar weapons, suggesting that modern humans and their extinct relatives had the know-how to create these sorts of complex thrown projectiles much earlier than often thought.

Scientists investigated stone tools unearthed at the Gademotta Formation on the flanks of an ancient, large collapsed volcanic crater in central Ethiopia's Rift Valley.

"Today, the area represents a ridge overlooking one of the four lakes in the vicinity, Lake Ziway," said researcher Yonatan Sahle, an archaeologist at the University of California, Berkeley. (See "Stone Spear Tips Surprisingly Old—'Like Finding iPods in Ancient Rome.' ")

During much of the Middle Pleistocene, about 125,000 to 780,000 years ago, "the area was overlooking an even bigger paleolake—a megalake composed of today's four separate lakes." Antelope and hippo remains have been recovered from the grassy, forested site.