A spear-thrower or atlatl (/ˈætlætəl/ or /ˈɑːtlɑːtəl/; Nahuatl languages: ahtlatl; Nahuatl pronunciation: [ˈaʔt͡ɬat͡ɬ]) is a tool that uses leverage to achieve greater velocity in dart-throwing, and includes a bearing surface which allows the user to store energy during the throw.
It may consist of a shaft with a cup or a spur at the end that supports and propels the butt of the dart. The spear-thrower is held in one hand, gripped near the end farthest from the cup. The dart is thrown by the action of the upper arm and wrist. The throwing arm together with the atlatl acts as a lever. The spear-thrower is a low-mass, fast-moving extension of the throwing arm, increasing the length of the lever. This extra length allows the thrower to impart force to the dart over a longer distance, thus imparting more energy and ultimately higher speeds.
Common modern ball throwers (molded plastic shafts used for throwing tennis balls for dogs to fetch) use the same principle.
A spear-thrower is a long-range weapon and can readily impart to a projectile speeds of over 150 km/h (93 mph).
Spear-throwers appear very early in human history in several parts of the world, and have survived in use in traditional societies until the present day, as well as being revived in recent years for sporting purposes. In the United States the Nahuatl word atlatl is often used for revived uses of spear-throwers, and in Australia the Aboriginal word woomera.
Spear-thrower designs may include improvements such as thong loops to fit the fingers, the use of flexible shafts, stone balance weights, and thinner, highly flexible darts for added power and range. Darts resemble large arrows or small spears and are typically from 1.2 to 2.7 m (4 to 9 ft) in length and 9 to 16 mm (3/8" to 5/8") in diameter.
Another important improvement to the spear-thrower's design was the introduction of a small weight (between 60 and 80 grams) strapped to its midsection. Some atlatlists maintain that stone weights add mass to the shaft of the device, causing resistance to acceleration when swung and resulting in a more forceful and accurate launch of the dart. Others claim that spear-thrower weights add only stability to a cast, resulting in greater accuracy.
Based on previous work done by William S. Webb, William R. Perkins claims that spear-thrower weights, commonly called "bannerstones", and characterized by a centered hole in a symmetrically shaped carved or ground stone, shaped wide and flat with a drilled hole and thus a little like a large wingnut, are a rather ingenious improvement to the design that created a silencing effect when swung. The use of the device would reduce the telltale "zip" of a swung atlatl to a more subtle "woof" sound that did not travel as far and was less likely to alert prey. Robert Berg's theory is that the bannerstone was carried by hunters as a spindle weight to produce string from natural fibers gathered while hunting, for the purpose of tying on fletching and hafting stone or bone points.
The woomera design is distinctly different from most other spear-throwers, in that it has a curved, hollow shape, which allows for it to be used for other purposes.
Several Stone Age spear-throwers (usually now incomplete) are decorated with carvings of animals: the British Museum has a mammoth, and there is a hyena in France. Many pieces of decorated bone may have belonged to Bâtons de commandement.
Wooden darts were known at least since the Middle Paleolithic (Schöningen, Torralba, Clacton-on-Sea and Kalambo Falls). While the spear-thrower is capable of casting a dart well over one hundred meters, it is most accurately used at distances of twenty meters or less. The spearthrower is believed to have been in use by Homo sapiens since the Upper Paleolithic (around 30,000 years ago). Most stratified European finds come from the Magdalenian (late upper Palaeolithic). In this period, elaborate pieces, often in the form of animals, are common. The earliest secure data concerning atlatls have come from several caves in France dating to the Upper Paleolithic, about 21,000 to 17,000 years ago. The earliest known example is a 17,500-year-old Solutrean atlatl made of reindeer antler, found at Combe Saunière (Dordogne), France. It is possible that the atlatl was invented earlier than this, as Mungo Man from 42 000 BP displays arthritis in his right elbow, a pathology referred today as the "Atlatl elbow," resulting from many years of forceful torsion from using an atlatl. At present there is no evidence for the use of atlatls in Africa. Peoples such as the Maasai and Khoi San throw spears without any aids, but its use in hunting is limited in comparison to the spear thrower since the animal must be very close and already immobile.
In Europe, the spear-thrower was supplemented by the bow and arrow in the Epi-Paleolithic. Along with improved ease of use, the bow offered the advantage that the bulk of elastic energy is stored in the throwing device, rather than the projectile; arrow shafts can therefore be much smaller, and have looser tolerances for spring constant and weight distribution than atlatl darts. This allowed for more forgiving flint knapping: dart heads designed for a particular spear thrower tend to differ in mass by only a few percent. By the Iron Age, the amentum, a strap attached to the shaft, was the standard European mechanism for throwing lighter javelins. The amentum gives not only range, but also spin to the projectile.
The spear-thrower was used by early Americans as well. It may have been introduced to America during the immigration across the Bering Land Bridge, and despite the later introduction of the bow and arrow, atlatl use was widespread at the time of first European contact. Atlatls are represented in the art of multiple PreColumbian cultures, including the Basketmaker culture in the American Southwest, Maya in the Yucatan Peninsula, and Moche in the Andes of South America. Atlatls were especially prominent in the iconography of the warriors of the Teotihuacan culture of Central Mexico. A ruler from Teotihucan named Spearthrower Owl is an important figure described in Mayan stelae. Complete wooden spear-throwers have been found on dry sites in the western United States and in waterlogged environments in Florida and Washington. Several Amazonian tribes also used the atlatl for fishing and hunting. Some even preferred this weapon over the bow and arrow, and used it not only in combat but also in sports competitions. Such was the case with the Tarairiu, a Tapuya tribe of migratory foragers and raiders inhabiting the forested mountains and highland savannahs of Rio Grande do Norte in mid-17th-century Brazil. Anthropologist Harald Prins offers the following description:
The atlatl, as used by these Tarairiu warriors, was unique in shape. About 88 cm (35 in) long and 3 to 4.5 cm (1 1⁄4 to 1 3⁄4 in) wide, this spear thrower was a tapering piece of wood carved of brown hard-wood. Well-polished, it was shaped with a semi-circular outer half and had a deep groove hollowed out to receive the end of the javelin, which could be engaged by a horizontal wooden peg or spur lashed with a cotton thread to the proximal and narrower end of the throwing board, where a few scarlet parrot feathers were tied for decoration. [Their] darts or javelins ... were probably made of a two-meter long wooden cane with a stone or long and serrated hard-wood point, sometimes tipped with poison. Equipped with their uniquely grooved atlatl, they could hurl their long darts from a great distance with accuracy, speed, and such deadly force that these easily pierced through the protective armor of the Portuguese or any other enemy.
Among the Tlingit of Southeast Alaska, approximately one dozen very old elaborately carved specimens they call "shee áan" (sitting on a branch) remain in museum collections  and private collections, one having sold at auction for more than $100,000.
In September 1997, a atlatl dart fragment, carbon dated to 4360 ± 50 14C yr BP (TO 6870), was found in an ice patch on mountain Thandlät, the first of the southern Yukon Ice Patches to be studied.:363:2
As well as its practical use as a hunting weapon, it may also have had social effects. John Whittaker, an anthropologist at Grinnell College, Iowa, suggests the device was a social equalizer in that it requires skill rather than muscle power alone. Thus women and children would have been able to participate in hunting, although in recent Australian societies, spear-throwers are restricted by custom to male use.
Whittaker said the stone-tipped projectiles from the Aztec atlatl were not powerful enough to penetrate Spanish steel plate armor, but they were strong enough to penetrate the mail, leather and cotton armor that most Spanish soldiers wore. Whittaker said the Aztecs started their battles with atlatl darts followed with melee combat using the macuahuitl.
Another type of Stone Age artefact that is sometimes excavated is the bâton de commandement. These are shorter, normally less than one foot long, and made of antler, with a hole drilled through them. When first found in the nineteenth century, they were interpreted by French archaeologists to be symbols of authority, like a modern Field Marshal's baton, and so named bâtons de commandement ("batons of command"). Though debate over their function continues, tests with replicas have found them, when used with a cord, very effective aids to spear or dart throwing. Another theory is that they were "arrow-straighteners".
In modern times, some people have resurrected the dart thrower for sports, often using the term atlatl, throwing either for distance and/or for accuracy. The World Atlatl Association was formed in 1987 to promote the atlatl. Throws of almost 260 m (850 ft) have been recorded. Colleges reported to field teams in this event include Grinnell College in Iowa, Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire, Alfred University in New York, and the University of Vermont.
Atlatls are sometimes used in modern times for hunting. In the U.S., the Pennsylvania Game Commission has given preliminary approval for legalization of the atlatl for hunting certain animals. The animals that would be allowed to atlatl hunters have yet to be determined, but particular consideration has been given to deer. Currently, Alabama allows the atlatl for deer hunting, while a handful of other states list the device as legal for rough fish (those not sought for sport or food), some game birds and non-game mammals. Starting in 2007, Missouri allowed use of the atlatl for hunting wildlife (excluding deer and turkey), and starting in 2010, also allowed deer hunting during the firearms portion of the deer season (except the muzzleloader portion). Starting in 2012, Missouri allowed the use of atlatls during the fall archery deer and turkey hunting seasons and, starting in 2014, allowed the use of atlatls during the spring turkey hunting season as well. Missouri also allows use of the atlatl for fishing, with some restrictions (similar to the restrictions for spearfishing and bowfishing). The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission allows the use of atlatls for the taking of deer as of 2013.
The woomera is still used today by some Australian Aborigines for hunting in remote parts of Australia. Yup'ik Eskimo hunters still use the atlatl, known locally as "nuqaq" (nook-ak), in villages near the mouth of the Yukon River for seal hunting.
There are numerous atlatl competitions held every year, with spears and spear-throwers built using both ancient and modern materials. Events are often held at parks, such as Letchworth State Park in New York, Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site in Illinois, or Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada. Atlatl associations around the world host a number of local atlatl competitions. Chimney Point State Historic Site in Addison, Vermont hosts the annual Northeast Open Atlatl Championship. In 2009, the Fourteenth Annual Open Atlatl Championship was held on Saturday and Sunday, September 19 and 20. On the Friday before the Championship, a workshop was held to teach modern and traditional techniques of atlatl and dart construction, flint knapping, hafting stone points, and cordage making. Competitions may be held in conjunction with other events, such as the Ohio Pawpaw Festival, or at the Bois D'Arc Primitive Skills Gathering and Knap-in, held every September in southern Missouri.
Atlatl events commonly include the International Standard Accuracy Competition (ISAC), in which contestants throw ten times at a bull's-eye target. Other contests involving different distances or terrain may also be included, usually testing the atlatlist's accuracy rather than distance throwing.
In the sixth episode of the fourth season of the television competition Top Shot, the elimination round consisted of two contestants using the atlatl at ranges of 30, 45 and 60 feet.
An amentum (Greek ἀγκύλη) was a leather strap attached to a javelin used in ancient Greek athletics, hunting, and warfare, which helped to increase the range and the stability of the javelin in flight. Stability in flight was important because it allowed the javelin to land on its point, which was the only way the throw could be accurately recorded in competition or be useful against a live target. The amentum also increased the effective length of the throwing arm as does a spear-thrower and so enhanced speed.Atlatl Cave
Atlatl Cave is an important archeological site that contains organic evidence of occupation by Archaic North Americans c. 900 BCE. It is located at the west end of Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. During the 1970s, archeologists discovered plant material, a yucca fiber sandal, beads, basketry, and fabric made from rabbit fur in the cave. They also found part of an atlatl, or spear-thrower, from which the site got its name. Atlatl Cave is important because unlike most Archaic sites in the canyon, the shelter protected the organic materials inside, which allowed for accurate radiocarbon dating.Atlatlia
Atlatlia is a genus of flies in the family Dolichopodidae. It contains two species, both of which are found in Australia. The name of the genus is derived from "atlatl", the Nahuatl word for "spear-thrower".Bison Licking Insect Bite
Bison Licking Insect Bite is a prehistoric carving from the Upper Paleolithic, found at Abri de la Madeleine near Tursac in Dordogne, France, the type-site of the Magdalenian culture, which produced many fine small carvings in antler or bone.
Created sometime between 20,000 and 12,000 BP (15,000 BP according to the museum), it was formerly in the Musee des Antiquites Nationales, St. Germain-en-Laye, but has been transferred to the expanded National Museum of Prehistory in Les Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil that opened in 2004, not far from its findspot. It is a carved and engraved fragment of a spear-thrower made of reindeer antler. It depicts the figure of a bison, of the now extinct species steppe wisent (bison priscus) with its head turned around and showing its tongue extended. It is thought the spear-thrower was broken into roughly its present shape before the carving was made from the fragment, hence the need to show the turned-back head of the animal in order to fit the existing structure.Bâton de commandement
A bâton de commandement, bâton percé or perforated baton is a name given by archaeologists to a particular prehistoric artifact that has been much debated. The name bâtons de commandement was the name first applied to the class of artifacts, but it makes an assumption of function; the name bâton percé, meaning "pierced rod", or "perforated baton" (the term used by the British Museum) is a more recent term, and is descriptive of form rather than any presumed function.Many are decorated with carved or engraved animals, and the most usual explanation of their use is that they were used for straightening spears and arrows, and as spear-throwers.Cumberland point
A Cumberland point is a lithic projectile point, attached to a spear and used as a hunting tool. These sturdy points were intended for use as thrusting weapons and employed by various mid-Paleo-Indians (c. 11,000 BP) in the Southeastern US in the killing of large game mammals.Garaidh
The Scottish Gaelic (Gáidhlig) and Irish Gaelic (Gaeilge) masculine given name Garaidh can be traced back to the Middle Ages. For example, it is found in the ballad Song of Selma - the reference here is to a musician interview by BBC Scotland discussing the 15th century song wherein a character named Garaidh is featured:. In Irish lore, Garaidh was the son of Morna. The name is uncommon today although Gaelic names are seeing a revival as part of increased interest in things 'Celtic'.
Garaidh is pronounced gæri.
Garaidh is "acceptably translated into English" as Gary. It is also commonly (esp. in Scotland) spelled Garry. Gary is of Old English / Germanic origin, where it would mean 'spear' or 'spear thrower' (gar = spear) while the Scottish / Irish Gaelic name may be derived from the words such as garraidh, gearraidh or gharaidh probably meaning a fertile place or a copse, thicket or enclosed area.In Scotland there are many similar toponyms or placenames such as Garry, Garraidh or Gearraidh, including Loch Garry (Loch Garraidh), Invergarry (Inbhir Garraidh), Garynahine (Gearraidh na h-Aibhne) or Glen Garry / Glengarry (in Gaelic Gleann Garraidh) the origin of the military hat, the Glengarry.Grinding slab
In archaeology, a grinding slab is a ground stone artifact generally used to grind plant materials into usable size, though some slabs were used to shape other ground stone artifacts. Some grinding stones are portable; others are not and, in fact, may be part of a stone outcropping.
Grinding slabs used for plant processing typically acted as a coarse surface against which plant materials were ground using a portable hand stone, or mano ("hand" in Spanish). Variant grinding slabs are referred to as metates or querns, and have a ground-out bowl. Like all ground stone artifacts, grinding slabs are made of large-grained materials such as granite, basalt, or similar tool stones.List of Stone Age art
This is a descriptive list of art from the Stone Age, the period of prehistory characterised by the widespread use of stone tools. This page contains, by sheer volume of the artwork discovered, a very incomplete list of the works of the painters, sculptors, and other artists who created what we now call prehistoric art. For fuller lists see Art of the Upper Paleolithic, Art of the Middle Paleolithic, and Category:Prehistoric art and its many sub-categories.Mammoth spear thrower
The Mammoth spear thrower is a spear thrower in the form of a mammoth, discovered at the "Montastruc rock shelter" in Bruniquel, France. It is from the late Magdalenian period and around 12,500 years old. It now forms part of the Christy Collection in the British Museum (Palart 551), and is normally on display in Room 2. Between 7 February – 26 May 2013 it was displayed in the exhibition at the British Museum Ice Age Art: Arrival of the Modern Mind.Montastruc, Tarn-et-Garonne
Montastruc is a commune in the Tarn-et-Garonne department in the Occitanie region in southern France.
Note that Montrastruc is not the site of the "Montastruc rock shelter" in which prehistoric remains have been found in Bruniquel. (These include the carving of the Swimming Reindeer which is held by the British Museum and which was included in A History of the World in 100 Objects and the Mammoth spear thrower.)Montastruc decorated stone (Palart 518)
The Montastruc decorated stone (Palart 518) is an example of Ice Age art, now in the British Museum. A human figure that appears to be female has been scratched or engraved to decorate a fragment of limestone used as a lamp. The piece was excavated from Courbet Cave, Montastruc, Tarn-et-Garonne, Midi-Pyrénées, France, on the northern bank of the river Aveyron, a tributary of the Tarn. It is dated to around 11,000 BCE, locally the Late Magdalenian culture during the Upper Palaeolithic, towards the end of the last Ice Age. It was excavated by Edouard Lartet and Henry Christy in 1863, and among other items bequeathed to Christie's museum.
The dimensions of the object are: length 23 cm (9.1 in), width 14.5 cm (5.7 in), depth 5.2 cm (2.0 in). It is not normally on display, but between 7 February and 26 May 2013 it was displayed in an exhibition at the British Museum, Ice Age Art: Arrival of the Modern Mind The Swimming Reindeer and Mammoth spear thrower were found at the same site.
The other side of the slab of limestone has a natural depression in which fat was burnt, likely for lighting the rock shelter. The engraving seems to have been made after the stone lamp broke, as the figure is neatly centered on the fragment. The headless figure is shown from the side, bending to the right, with the large rounded buttocks and thigh carefully drawn. The thin torso features a small sharp triangle that may indicate the breasts, or perhaps arms held out. The two lines defining the front and rear of the profile are continuous and "confidently drawn", though they converge at knee level. Extra lines below the waist may represent an apron or skirt. Similar characteristics can be found in engraved figures from Neuwied in Germany.Spearthrower
Spearthrower may refer to:
Spear-thrower or atlatl, a tool that uses leverage to achieve greater velocity in dart-throwing, and includes a bearing surface which allows the user to store energy during the throw
Woomera (spear-thrower), a wooden Australian Aboriginal spear-throwing device similar to an atlatlSwimming Reindeer
The Swimming Reindeer is the name given to a 13,000-year-old Magdalenian sculpture of two swimming reindeer conserved in the British Museum. The sculpture was made in what is now modern-day France by an unknown artist who carved the artwork from the tip of a mammoth tusk. The sculpture was found in two pieces in 1866, but it was not until the early 20th century that Abbé Henri Breuil realised that the two pieces fit together to form a single sculpture of two reindeer swimming nose-to-tail.The Corean Chronicles
The Corean Chronicles is a fantasy series of books by the author L. E. Modesitt, Jr.. As of 2011, it consists of:
Alector's Choice (2005)
Cadmian's Choice (2006)
Soarer's Choice (2006)
The Lord-Protector's Daughter (2008)
Lady-Protector (2011)Throwing stick
The throwing stick or throwing club is a wooden rod with either a pointed tip or a spearhead attached to one end, intended for use as a weapon. A throwing stick can be either straight or roughly boomerang-shaped, and is much shorter than the javelin. It became obsolete as slings and bows became more prevalent, except on the Australian continent, where the native people continued refining the basic design. Throwing sticks shaped like returning boomerangs are designed to fly straight to a target at long ranges, their surfaces acting as airfoils. When tuned correctly they do not exhibit curved flight, but rather they fly on an extended straight flight path. Straight flight ranges greater than 100 meters have been reported by historical sources as well as in recent research.Woomera (spear-thrower)
A woomera is a wooden Australian Aboriginal spear-throwing device. Similar to an atlatl, it serves as an extension of the human arm, enabling a spear to travel at a greater speed and force than possible with only the arm.