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https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albertosaurus

Going to have my male human protagonist kill an Albertosaurus with stone age weapons. However as this is in self defense I was just curious to know how one would go about doing it.

For context the two characters have been sent back in time to late Cretaceous Midwest America. They're lucky to have found themselves in a situation that they have a semblance of surviving. Nevertheless surviving a year in this hostile environment is going to be difficult.

I want to have my character fight an Albertosaurus because I believe that that's the largest carnivorous dinosaur and animal they can reasonably kill in the 70-66 MYA era ( https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maastrichtian ) Taking down such a large creature with a spear is different to doing it with a bow and arrow. Still in this situation what would be the ideal way to kill a healthy, adult Albertosaurus that is, at most, forty meters away?

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    $\begingroup$ Nearly anything with a charging/lunging attack can be killed by tricking them into doing so into an array of grounded spikes(or wooden spears), though this isn't exactly 'fighting' something... also, I fail to see how this is a worldbuilding question, storybuilding more like, which as far as I remember is not what this stack is for. $\endgroup$
    – Lemming
    Jul 10, 2022 at 11:44
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry about that. Do you know a good place I can post this then? I really like the idea I am making but want to find a good place to talk about it. $\endgroup$ Jul 10, 2022 at 11:51
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not aware of a stack that can help you. Perhaps somewhere on reddit? $\endgroup$
    – Lemming
    Jul 10, 2022 at 11:55
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    $\begingroup$ a human does not stand a chance in a direct fight, indirect attacks like traps is their only chance. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Jul 10, 2022 at 13:41
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    $\begingroup$ This seems perfectly on-topic to me. The key words from the WorldBuilding tour are "... construct imaginary worlds and settings ...". Dinosaurs plus time machines is an imaginary setting, even if it's not an imaginary world. $\endgroup$ Jul 12, 2022 at 4:32

12 Answers 12

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Pit Trap

enter image description here

Dinosaurs are big and heavy. Big heavy things are more vulnerable to falls than small light things. A three foot drop will not harm an ant. A person falling into the pit will be fine unless they land awkwardly. Or there are spikes at the bottom. You do not need spikes. A dinosaur falling into a garden variety hole in the ground will break a leg, die of dehydration and be eaten by scavengers.

enter image description here

Gotcha.

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  • $\begingroup$ This fails the "self defense" part of the question. A pit implies that the human was already planning to hunt the Albertosaurus (or other dangerously large game) in this exact area. With a tribe size of 2, it's very unlikely that they will just so happen to have a large game pit already dug exactly where they need it. It would take a tribe of at least 15 people to even consume an animal that large before the meat spoils. Instead, any trapping pits they might have would not be for catching things any bigger than a Stygimoloch. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Jul 13, 2022 at 15:35
  • $\begingroup$ @Nosajimiki The pit trap is a good way to defend yourself from the dinosaur. It will require imagination as to how the pit got there in the first place. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Jul 13, 2022 at 16:19
  • $\begingroup$ I may have spoken too much in absolutes. I did not mean to sound like I was saying that your answer isn't true, it just seems like an actual pit trap of appropriate size would be an unlikely setup. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Jul 13, 2022 at 19:31
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Drive them over a cliff.

Obviously, this is a situational and risky solution, but still one to take into consideration: the mass of the Albertosaurus won't allow for rapid changes in direction.
If they can be lured (e.g. with meat of smaller animals) towards a deadly precipice, especially while charging (at a dummy prey, or, in a pinch, at one of your time-travellers) with 20 km/hour, they can surely be defeated.

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Fire

Making fire will be a key survival step. Once fire is made, it must be preserved, because using a fire drill every night is exhausting. So your survivors will need a fire pot.

Assume that they also carry suitable torches, or that dry wood is available. Light the torch, wave it and shout, and hope that this unusual spectacle panics the dinosaur. Herd the dinosaur into a ravine.

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A pit trap

Have your characters dig a hole deep enough to cause the animal to fall in far enough to injure itself. Albertosaurus was a maximum of about 10m meters long but only 3-4 meter in height.

So dig a pit at a natural choke point and draw the animal into it. It only has to be 1-2 meters deep! As long as it is broad/wide enough to ensure the animal will fall in depth doesn't really matter. The animal weights 2000 kilos plus after all!

You line the bottom of the wide but shallow pit with sharp stakes every 20 cm or so. Then lead/coax the animal into charging across the covered pit. Immediate death isn't the goal merely crippling injury. If the Albertosaurus can't hunt it's doomed.

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Since it's in self defence I'm assuming you don't have time to dig a pit that big and line it with sharpened stakes and bait.

I'd distract it and basically herd it to an area where I have an advantage.

A sling is great for this sort of task. You don't sling at the animal you sling in the direction you want a predator to go. They follow the sound instinctively. Or you sling opposite to where you want to herd a non predator and they move away from the sound instinctively.

This is the reason shepherds used slings, they still do in the Andes and I think the middle east.

40 metres is an easy range, I can sling over 100 metres without trying too hard.

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    $\begingroup$ If it is already focused on you, making a noise somewhere else isn't going to redirect it. The sling can be a very deadly weapon in the right hands. Just maybe not so much against something so large. $\endgroup$ Jul 11, 2022 at 16:15
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelRichardson so hit it then. It won't know the stone came from you it will refocus. If it's 40 metres away it's not committed to anything I would think. I'd be more likely to herd it into a prearranged plan than try and kill it outright with the sling. These things have the brainpower of a concussed duckling. It works on dogs which are much smarter $\endgroup$
    – Kilisi
    Jul 11, 2022 at 22:45
  • $\begingroup$ Don't under estimate the killing power of a sling. With proper training, a sling is every bit as deadly as a mid-powered modern handgun. If he's using a sling staff, even more so. Roman armies typically preferred slings over warbows in battle specifically because they could kill through metal armor. It may or may not give you a kill shot here, but it will hurt like hell which alone is enough to convince a predator that you are not worth it. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Jul 13, 2022 at 15:43
  • $\begingroup$ Don't over-estimate the power of a hangun. unless you hit it right in the eye, a handgun won't do a thing to an Albertosaurus other than maybe annoy it. $\endgroup$
    – Dan Hanson
    Jul 13, 2022 at 20:07
  • $\begingroup$ @DanHanson annoying or scaring it is enough. Predators don't take risk of injury lightly. $\endgroup$
    – Kilisi
    Jul 13, 2022 at 21:45
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An Albertosaurus surprises the hero (heroes?) from 40 meters, and then charges them - I presume.

Two plausible ideas for them to kill it:

The most logical way for the two of them (or maybe just one) to kill something that big, is to run in a direction which has something that the humans could get through, but the dino would get stuck in - two trees, narrow passage in a rock formation, etc.
If they stay close enough to its head to keep it enraged, and have some sort of weapon, they could eventually take it out (poke its eyes out, cause it to bleed out, etc.)
I don't see, in the wiki reference, anything about the width of an Albertosaurus - but maybe you can find that somewhere.

One test of animal intelligence is the ability to 'go away from food, to get to food' and not all predators have this level of intelligence.
It seems plausible to me that a dino wouldn't have this level of intelligence - or if it did, that it would not exercise it while food (your heroes) is within reach

An alternative is for them to run near a cliff / ravine / natural bridge.
When the dino runs a similar path while pursuing them, its massive weight causes some sort of collapse in the earth.
The collapse causes the dino to break a back leg, or tips the dino over where it either bashes its skull or hits its skull hard enough to stun/immobilize it.
While it is immobilized, the hero knifes an artery in the neck, cuts the tendons in its back legs, or whatever works for you.

A horse can break a leg by stepping in a gopher hole.
A less heroic kill could come from an Albertosaurus who broke a leg running. Another negative to this is you'd need a prehistoric giant gopher (or whatever) hole to be in the right place - but you're writing the story so if that works for you, I'd believe it.

If you didn't plan for the Albertosaurus to charge them, they could taunt it into charging them.
This gives your heroes the added advantage of planning.
Why they'd taunt something with banana sized teeth is beyond me, but I'm sure they have a good reason :-)

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Learn from the Ewoks

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3C5GN15kas

  • two logs smashing together
  • logs, rocks tumbling down a hill
  • trebuchet (or similar)
  • snare
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It is entirely possible for humans to bring down very large animals with a spear. Especially if they use an atl-atl to add power to their throw. The proof in this is the general disappearance of megafauna (predatory or otherwise) soon after the arrival of humans in any landscape.

Like somebody else mentioned in another similar question, if the animal can bleed out, there is not really any size limit, assuming your protagonist can start the bleeding somehow. There's a lot to assume there, but all of that lies outside of the scope of the question.

They'd probably have to get lucky, especially if they haven't been throwing spears their entire life.

For your plot to work, do they have to kill the dinosaur? Can they run and hide somewhere until the predator gives up or more suitable prey comes along?

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  • $\begingroup$ Good points, great questions, welcome to the site! $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Jul 12, 2022 at 14:35
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A Well-Placed Arrow/Spear

There are already some fantastic answers. However, it might be less thematically sound to have the largest theropod dinosaur in your story being taken down by a simple pit or fire. To fix this, I suggest a more "interesting" method that is less practical.

Albertosaurus, unlike some dinosaurs, has an Antorbital fenestra which is a large opening in the skull that houses the sinus'. If an arrow or spear where to make its way deep into the Albertosaurus' skull via this opening, it has the potential of seriously disrupting its sense of smell. Since most large theropods rely upon their sense of smell to hunt for prey, a dinosaur with a compromised snout is not going to survive long in the wild.

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Use a Barbed Spear

While a Mammoth may not be quite as aggressive as an Albertosaurus, they were much larger, and harder to kill, yet this did not prevent our stone aged ancestors from hunting them. Cave paintings show many different hunting methods that worked, but most of them required you to either work as a group, or prepare a trap in advance, but there was one hunting method that was relatively safe, only required 1 hunter, and needed very little prep work.

The hunter would hide in a tree overlooking a known mammoth trail and thrust his spear into the mammoth from above while remaining at a safe height above the it. The key here is in how these spears were designed. Unlike a military spear where the head has smooth blades for easy extraction, hunting spears were napped or had added barbs such that they would go in easy, but be very hard to take out. What this would mean when hunting large animals is that you only needed to land one strike a few inches deep, and then let go of the spear. Then when the animal inevitably panics and tries to run away, the action of moving around works the spear deeper and deeper into the prey until it pierces something important, and kills it.

So, lets apply this to your Albertosaurus scenario. Your hero is out hunting and spots the Albertosaurus. Knowing that the Albertosaurus is a terrible climber, your hero decides to climb a tree and wait for the Albertosaurus to pass on, except that the Albertosaurus notices the human and goes to investigate. The hero being terrified and not quite sure if he's gotten high enough to be out of harms way is forced to turn and fight. As the Albertosaurus tries to figure out how to reach the human past all the tree limbs, it exposes the side of its neck or torso not realizing how dangerous of prey this tiny human can be; so, the hero thrusts his spear into the exposed bit and lets go knowing better than to try to extract it.

Now the Albertosaurus is a hunter too, not a warrior. It will only pursue a hunt if it believes the hunt is worth the risk; so, it will react the same way any predator would react to being unexpectedly stung. It will fall back, at least long enough to reassess the threat of the prey and try to decide if it's still worth it. But that moment where it recoils is where your human is given the opportunity to keep climbing until he is surely too a safe height. So now, even if your Albertosaurus decided to try again, as it moves around trying to figure out how to get to the human, the spear will go deeper and deeper, and hurt more and more. Eventually, the spear will either work its way into an artery or vital organ dropping the dinosaur then and there, or the building pain will cause it to try to get away from the human, which will have the same basic effect in very little time.

Regardless, it only takes 1 barbed spear to kill very large prey, you just need to be able to get somewhere safe enough to not get eaten while you wait for the spear to do its job.

enter image description here

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Run, then make the trap.

You won't be making trap if it is 40m away. Humans can run/walk very very long distances, they are also very agile compared to a dinosaur. If our guys are in a forested environment, even an average person will be able to dodge and outrun a dinosaur until it tires out. Then do whatever you like with it.

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Poisoned arrows

Use a strong poison like Black Mamba venom, a few grams will suffice to kill a Rex. The Rex you'll have to shoot in the mouth. The Albertosaurus would be easier: it was smaller (less body weight) and as mentioned above, it had an open skull, providing easy access to brain tissue, vulnerable to nerve agents.

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