Little is known about the organic component of Lower and Middle Palaeolithic technologies, particular with respect to wooden tools1,2. Here I describe some wooden throwing spears about 400,000 years old that were discovered in 1995 at the Pleistocene site at Schöningen, Germany. They are thought to be the oldest complete hunting weapons so far discovered to have been used by humans. Found in association with stone tools and the butchered remains of more than ten horses, the spears strongly suggest that systematic hunting, involving foresight, planning and the use of appropriate technology, was part of the behavioural repertoire of pre-modern hominids. The use of sophisticated spears as early as the Middle Pleistocene may mean that many current theories on early human behaviour and culture must be revised.