Growing up in the 1990s, I first encountered the ancient world through a video game called Prehistorik. The game resembled Super Mario, only the main character was not an Italian plumber but a shaggy caveman. Clad in a leopard-print loincloth, the fellow roamed his 2D world, searching for food and clobbering dinosaurs with a hefty wooden club.
As a kid, I quickly learned that Prehistorik was unrealistic: Humans could never have met dinosaurs, which went extinct over 65 million years before our species appeared on the planet. Nor did ancient humans primarily dwell in caves. But what about the wooden club—a weapon often wielded by pop culture cavepeople, including the Flintstones and Lego Caveman? Was the club part of our ancestors’ arsenal or just a popular myth?
This question vexed me decades later after I became an archaeologist who studies the time period Prehistorik supposedly depicts. In a new study, I examine the evidence and conclude that wooden clubs likely existed at least since the dawn of Homo sapiens. But far from simple clobbering logs, those weapons probably required considerable expertise to craft and maneuver.