I have accumulated this bibliography over the last few years, making notes for my own uses. Since I have access to some obscure articles, I thought it might be useful to put this information where others, especially beginners, can get at it. Comments in brackets [ ] are my own comments, opinions, and critiques, and not everyone will agree with them. The thoroughness of the annotation varies depending on when I read the piece and what my interests were at the time. Numerous articles from atlatl newsletters describing contests and scores are not included. There are a few peripheral items, relating to topics like the dating of the introduction of the bow, projectile points, and skeletal anatomy. The serious researcher should find Lorenz Bruechert’s (2000) bibliography, which is more complete in some areas, but less annotated than mine.
The articles use a variety of measurements. Some useful conversions:
1”=2.54 cm 1’=30.48 cm 1 yard = .9144 m 1 m = 3.28 feet (3’ 3 1/3”)
1 oz = 31.103 gm or 480 grains 1 grain = .0648 gm
2000 Why Flute? Folsom Point Design and Adaptation. Journal of Archaeological Science 27:799-820.
Folsom fluting produces a very thin point that can be hafted in a split haft with only leading edge and tip exposed, allowing maximum penetration but controlling breakage so that only the tip breaks off and the point can be resharpened and reused many times. Probably an adaptation to mobile bison hunting where a reliable, maintainable weapon is needed, but where suitable material is not always available. Assumes used with atlatl. Summarizes previous ideas on fluting, proposes a convincing hafting model.
1992 Great Basin Atlatls: Notes from the N.W. Corner. Bulletin of Primitive Technology 1(4): 48‑56.
Describes several atlatls of different types. [Good illustrations, one of the best sources to use replicating different styles.] Includes good drawings of Roaring Springs, Nicolarson Cave, Plush Cave, and McClure atlatls.
Alva, Walter, and Christopher B. Donnan
1994 Royal Tombs of Sipan. Los Angeles: University of California.
Moche, Peru, fabulously wealthy tomb.
P 175 drawing of spear thrower: straight rod with cast copper hook in form of animal head, hooked handle in form of human head, geometric decoration on shaft. A second atlatl, not shown, had wooden handle carved with bird head. P 127, procession of warriors with clubs, spears, and atlatls (on pot), but mostly shown using clubs or maces and slings in combat.
Ames, Kenneth N. and Herbert D. G. Maschner
1999 Peoples of the Northwest Coast: Their Archaeology and Prehistory. London: Thames and Hudson.
P 236 clear drawing of the Skagit atlatl carving. See Fladmark et al 1987.
[However, no other mention of atlatls, despite chapter on warfare and discussion of weapons.]
Angel, J. Lawrence
1966 Early Skeletons from Tranquility, California. Smithsonian Contributions to Anthropology 2(1).
Early Horizon [Archaic] burials with mano/metate, mortar/pestle, Olivella beads etc, but possible association with extinct bison, horse, camel. [Angel accepts association, but artifacts and stratigraphic problems suggest post-Pleistocene date, no C14 date.]
Hard life indicated by skeletons of 30 individs, 3M, 4F complete.
p3: Diagnoses "atlatl elbow": 6 of 13 individs show arthritis of elbow "usually including eburnation after friction removal of head of cartilage over capitulum, the "ball" against which concave upper surface of head of radius rubs during flexion and extension of elbow and pronation and supination of hand. What repeated and stressful action combines those movements? One thinks at once of baseball pitcher or javelin thrower, except that this equally strains shoulder and clavicular joints." Atlatl allows throw without extending and abducting shoulder, but puts extra stress on arm muscles and elbow. [Important article, but incorrect understanding of atlatl throwing motion.]
1989 Unusual Spearthrowers from Key Marco on the Gulf Coast of Florida. The Atlatl 2(1):4-5.
Two of Cushing's finds described briefly, line drawings. [Not enough info and no proper reference]
1990 World's Record Atlatl Throw. The Atlatl 3(1):6
Bill Holladay at Rabbit Stick 1989: primitive equipment - 380'5", open equipment - 428'6".
1991 Notes from All Over. The Atlatl 4(1):8
Manuel White record throw: 476'5".
1992 Worlds Record Distance Throw. The Atlatl 5(3):7
Wayne Brian 616.8' (188 m) No equipment info.
1992 New Record Cast. The Atlatl 5(4):7
Wayne Brian 638'8" (194.67 m); unofficial: 690' (210.31 m) 10/7/92.
Action photo, no equipment info.
1993 Safety First - Says New WAA Board. The Atlatl 6(3): 1-2
News report of boy struck in head by Crow throwing arrow (not atlatl).
Arutiunov, S. A. and William W. Fitzhugh
1988 Prehistory of Siberia and the Bering Sea. In Crossroads of Continents: Cultures of Siberia and Alaska, edited by W. W. Fitzhugh and A. Crowell, pp.117-129. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington D.C.
Illustrations of various harpoon tips and stone tools. Old Bering Sea Culture (ca 500 BC) “winged objects” elaborately carved of ivory are considered to be counterbalance on the end of a harpoon with heavy head, and incorporate a socket for atlatl hook.
2002 The Shelters of Stone. Crown Publishers.
[see Edgar 2002]
Bachechi, L., P.-F. Fabbri, and F. Mallegni
1997 An Arrow-Caused Lesion in a Late Upper Paleolithic Human Pelvis. Current Anthropology.
By Mesolithic, bow + arrow widely distributed, but no evidence before end of Upper Paleolithic.
A female burial, Epigravettian, San Teodoro Cave, Sicily has fragment of backed triangular microlith in pelvis with sepsis and healing. Part of light point, so arrow likely [not adequate evidence]. Date ca. 14,000-12,000 b.p.
Other examples listed.
Baer, John Leonard
1921 A Preliminary Report on the So-Called "Bannerstones". American Anthropologist n.s. 23(4): 445-459.
C.C. Abbott responsible for term "bannerstone".
3 bannerstones with short stone shafts from NC, one pictured [can't tell if hole goes all the way through]
Describes manufacture process from site in PA: slate blocked out, pecked, scraped, drilled, polished. Experiments by McGuire suggest 10.5 hrs for all that.
Fragile, unsharpened, no practical use: "mounted upon handles for ceremonial use".
Baker, W. E. and A. V. Kidder
1937 A Spear Thrower from Oklahoma. American Antiquity 3(1): 51-52.
Spear thrower predates bows - SW evidence.
Cave find from Cimarron R., NW of Boise City.
Distal fragment of Basketmaker type, groove, flush hook, good illustration.
Associated sandals, corn, no pottery, slotted foreshaft.
Bandi, H. G.
1988 Mis bas et non defecation. Nouvelle interpretation de trois propulseurs magdaleniens sur de bases zoologiques, ethnologiques et symboliques. Espacio, tiempo y forma, serie I, Prehistoria t.1 :133-147.
[Giving birth and not defecation : New interpretation of three magdalenian spearthrowers on the basis of zoology, ethnology, and symbology.] See Demoulin 2002.
Baugh, Richard A.
1998 Atlatl Dynamics. Lithic Technology 32(1):31-41.
[Possibly useful, but explanations of physics are so poor that it is hard to evaluate the model unless you have strong physics background. I don't.]
Video digitizer and mathematical model used to predict velocity of darts under given conditions. - horizontal force, wrist torque, mass of hand, radius of gyration, weight of dart, length of atlatl. Simpler model than Cotterell and Kamminga 1989.
Hand-thrown dart has short lever action (hand+wrist) while atlatl is much longer lever.
Conclusions: Atlatl length (between .3-.75m) has little effect on velocity, although optimum length was .45 m. Adding a weight to atlatl can increase velocity up to 2.7%, but if atlatl at optimum length, always loses velocity. Heavy darts do better with short atlatls. Hand thrown dart (2 different weights) has 62-75% kinetic energy of same thrown by atlatl. Flexible atlatl transfers more energy to dart - their atlatl stored ca. 6.9% of dart's kinetic energy - more flex would be even better. Dart flex contributes little energy to forward motion, is mostly vibrational, but important in getting straight throw despite curving motion of atlatl. [Are differences of 3-7% real or random? I am dubious about effects of both atlatl weights and flex, but he’s right that dart flex adds little energy.]
2001 Arrow Straightening. Bulletin of Primitive Technology 22:51-52.
Use of heat and grooved steatite shaft straightener.
Baugh, Richard A.
2002 The Tuning of Atlatl Darts. Bulletin of Primitive Technology 23:89-91.
Force is not applied in a straight line, so dart must flex. If end kicks up, dart is too limber, if down, too stiff. Test before fletching. The harder you throw, the stiffer the dart should be. Fairly wide range is acceptable; well-tuned dart works for hard to moderate throw but kicks down for easy toss. Periodicity of dart vibration must match distance/time of throw. Flex of atlatl has little effect on “tuning” and flex of atlatl or dart contributes almost no energy to throw.
2002 Atlatl Flexibility Analysis Via Computer Modeling. accessed 7/02 on http://www.primitiveways.com/pt-atlatlflex.html.
“Extravagant claims made for increased dart velocity with flexible atlatl.” Uses computer model to show that to get 11% increase in kinetic energy, need to deflect the tip of the atlatl ca. 10 cm. [Possible with some very flexible atlatls.]
1992 Atlatl Boar Hunt. The Atlatl 5(3):1-5.
Large darts - 160-195 gm, steel broadheads, > 1 m penetration in boar at 15-20 m.
1995 Atlatl and Primitive Self-Bow Boar Hunt 1995. The Atlatl 8(3):7-8
Hunt story, no lessons.
1995 Care and Feeding of Wooden Atlatl Darts. The Atlatl 8(2):1-2
Favors poplar, birch woods. Target = 117 gm, hunting = 259 gm, fletched with 3 or 4 feathers 6.5-7.5 inches long. Explains straightening darts by "stroking" with a hook.
1999 Let's Excercise those "Atlatl" Muscles. The Atlatl 12(1):4-5.
Simple excercises with spring cable set.
2001 Hunting Rough Fish with the Ancient Atlatl. The Atlatl 14(2):12-13.
2002 Hunting Rough Fish with the Ancient Atlatl. The Cast Spring 2002:15-16.
Michigan carp fishing. Heavy dart (190 gm), prefers banks and wading to boat.
2001 Atlatl Rough Fish Hunting Equipment. The Atlatl 14(3):10.
Prefers wood or fiberglass darts, hand held reel, gives instructions for making reel.
Berg, Robert S.
1995 A Wild Boar Hunt at Cold Brook: An Eolithic Adventure. Chips 7(3):4-5.
1996 A Wild Boar Hunt at Cold Brook: A Stone Age Adventure. The Atlatl 9(1):1-2
Same short account of killing boar with atlatl and dart.
2002 Atlatl Long Shots and Primal Instinct. The Atlatl 15(1):8
Hunting fallow deer, two long shots, 40-55 yards. Doug Majorsky only wounded the deer because dart was too light (3 1/2 oz) and stone point too loose. Berg killed his, gear not specified [but presumably stone tip].
2002 The Atlatl Hunt that Got Weird or Blunt Trauma. The Atlatl 15(2):12.
Bob lent his atlatl, killed deer with a rock.
Berndt, Ronald, editor
1964 Australian Aboriginal Art Ronald Berndt, pp. 44-59. The Macmillan Company, New York.
Includes pictures of spearthrowers, see Strehlow 1964, plate of hunter attacking x-ray style kangaroo with odd-looking spear thrower, plate of incised Central and Western art including spearthrower, plate of spears and painted flat lathe spearthrowers from Arnhem Land (Groote Eylandt and Yirrkalla).
Bettinger, Robert L. and Jelmer Eerkens
1999 Point Typologies, Cultural Transmission, and the Spread of Bow-and-Arrow Technology in the Prehistoric Great Basin. American Antiquity 64(2):231-242.
Great Basin transition to small points (= bow and arrow) ca. 1350 B.P.
Two areas anomalous: 1) central NV lots light pts that should be darts - probably because of resharpening limited material. 2) E. CA light pts with base/neck too wide for arrow. Suggests different modes of transmission: 1 = "indirect bias" copy whole complex at once, vs 2 = "guided variation" more individualistic copying with experimentation, perhaps because of less contact between cultures.
Bingham, Paul M.
2000 Human Evolution and Human History: A Complete Theory. Evolutionary Anthropology 9(6):248-257.
The “inevitable logic of death from a distance:” humans can throw, which means that a group can enforce its self interest, and interest of individuals in it, at low risk to any member, because many can attack one “cheater” without direct combat. As a result, language, ethics, brain size etc all possible. Historically, increasingly effective distance weapons make possible larger social groups. Example: change from atlatl to bow and arrow in N. America allowed complexity and large populations. [Suffers from the weaknesses of all single-cause, overgeneralized theories – many specifics don’t really fit all that well.]
Bindon, P., Raynal, J.P., and Sonneville‑Bordes, D.
1987 Sagaies en bois d'Australie occidentale: fabrication, fixation,
fonctions. [Wooden Spear Points from Western Australia : Manufacture, Attachment, Functions.] In Le Main et l'Outil: Manches et emmanchements prehistoriques. D. Stordeur ed., pp 103‑116. Lyon: Maison de l'Orient.
Small beveled wooden points currently made in Wiluna area can be either spear barbs or spear-thrower hooks on Western Desert woomera type atlatl, and resemble bone points from Upper Paleolithic Europe.
1985 The Atl-atl or Spear Throwing Stick. The Artifact 23(3):7-18. El Paso Archaeological Society.
Personal meanings of atlatl, describes basic manufacture, woods, finds no difference with weights, likes short dart 2x as long as atlatl
[Over simple and impressionistic, nothing new, but ok]
1999 Lengths Not To Go To in Atlatls. The Atlatl 12(1):3.
Reports her experiment with different lengths of atlatl: distance increases with longer atlatl, but beyond 2.5' gets too clumsy.
Bittmann, Bente, and Juan R. Munizaga
1984 Comments on a Double Mummy Containing a Spear Thrower, in the "Anke Nielsen Collection", Iquique, Northern Chile. Indiana 9:383-419. (Berlin)
Chinchorro Culture, Late Archaic, 5000-1000 BC, coastal, harpoon + spear throwers, also earliest evidence of bow in Americas, prepared mummy burials.
Double infant mummy wrapped in cloth + leather.
Atlatl = 51.7 cm, wood, grooved, hook separate and missing, finger loop on one side of handle only
Describes other S. Am. atlatls - diverse forms, long comparative and typological discussion.
Blitz, John H.
1988 Adoption of the Bow in Prehistoric North America. North American Archaeologist 9(2):123-145.
Reviews regional evidence: Arctic by 3000 B.C. (microblades and small pts); Subarctic 500-600 AD (small bifacial pts); Plains N by 200 AD, WY by 500 AD, S Plains after 500 AD (small notched pts); Great Basin reduction in pt size AD 1-500, small triangular pts (Desert Side Notched and Cottonwood Triangular) appear 800-1200, if Rosegate series are arrow pts, then bow ca. 200 AD, with probable overlap with atlatl; NW and CA after 500 AD (shift to small pts); Southwest "unambiguous" replacement in Basketmaker III 575-750 AD; NE Woodland triangular Levanna pts 600-700 AD; MidW and SE sudden appearance small triangular pts ca 700 AD.
Patterns: 1. Small points are the only widely useful archaeological criteria. 2. Spread was N to S and rapid so diffusion is indicated as well as migration. 3. Long stasis in Arctic, quick spread further S. 4. Beginning 200 AD, intensifying after 500 AD is trend to small pts. When small and large pts coexist (Gt Basin), there is also other evidence for atlatl. When sudden shift to small pts (SW, Plains, MidW, SE) atlatl rapidly disappears from record.
Atlatl best for water-based hunting, but bow better accuracy, range, more efficient. But no evidence of major change in hunting pattern or success with bow. Bow might enhance individual hunt success and thus individual prestige, or better warfare, allowing intergroup competition and expansion. Some evidence of warfare increases after bow - bodies with points, defensive structures.
Bow spread across ecological boundaries as result of its "contagious competitive advantage in intergroup conflict."
1968-69 The Skagit River Atlatl: A Reappraisal. B.C. Studies 1:13-19.
Found in river (Taylor and Caldwell 1954). Yew wood, 2-hole grip with integral loops, 41 cm long, distal end (hook) missing, carved human head surmounted by rampant monster served as weight near grip to balance while aiming. Compares to Marpole and Locarno Beach (early NW coast) art styles and recent to argue for NW origin. May depict Sisiutl, double headed serpent diety controling sea resources - appropriate for marine hunter. Probably Locarno Beach age (last millenium BC). [see also Fladmark et al. 1987; picture of carving in Ames and Maschner 1999:236]
2000 Straightening Georgia’s World Record Setting River Cane. The Dart. July 2000: 7-10.
2002 Straightening Georgia’s World Record Setting Cane. The Atlatl 15(4):14
Season well, rehydrate by soaking 12 hrs. Heat and bend to straighten, alternate segments first, then back, then alternate nodes, then back. Uses 4-feather fletching, copper point, no foreshaft. [No info on length or weight.]
1994 This'n That. The Atlatl 7(2): 2
Claims Guinness record of 638' 8" (209.53 m), but also 660'3" and 699' witnessed, personal best (9/93) 727' (238.52 m) [non-primitive equipment]
1992 Crashing the Barrier. The Atlatl 5(2):7-8.
Annecdote of record throw, no useful info
Bridges, Patricia S.
1989 Changes in Activities with the Shift to Agriculture in the Southeastern United States. Current Anthropology 30(3):385-394.
Skeletal info from Archaic and Mississippian burials in Pickwick Basin, Alabama.
Longbone shaft cross-sections reflect stresses.
Miss. have overall greater shaft circumference = greater stresses/workload in agricultural population. Males more change in arms than legs, females more overall, suggests females took on more new agricultural tasks. Female Miss. stronger and more symetrical arms = mortar and pestle corn grinding. Male Miss. arms more symetrical, more forearm strength = change to bow and arrow from atlatl. Archaic males have higher prevalence of elbow osteoarthritis than Mississipian, but both early and late have more on right than left elbows, and early females have highest right-dominant elbow osteoarthritis. [So mixed weak support for skeletal reflection of change from atlatl to bow.]
Bridges, Patricia S.
1990 Osteological correlates of weapon use. In A Life in Science: Papers in Honor of J. Lawrence Angel, J.E. Buikstra, ed., pp. 87-98. Center for American Archaeology.
Bridges (1990) compared Archaic (atlatl using) and Mississipian (bow and arrow using) skeletal populations from northwestern Alabama. She expected to see more arthritis of elbow and shoulder (specifically arthritis in radial/humeral articulation, olecranon fossa lipping, and acromioclavicular joint porosity), and greater difference between left and right arms in both arthritic conditions and dimensions in the Archaic population, and also expected that males would be more affected in both populations than females. In fact, there were no clear patterns, and she was forced to conclude that “in this region, changes in hunting technology appear to have had a minimal impact on the physique.” While “atlatl elbow” occurred in 15 to 26% of her male specimens, it was slightly more common in females, and equally common in both periods, so “it is impossible to attribute atlatl elbow to any specific activity.”
Bridges, Patricia S.
1992 Prehistoric arthritis in the Americas. Annual Review of Anthropology 21:67-91.
Surveys arthritis in reports of 25 prehistoric Indian groups, mentions atlatl elbow and references self and others cited here. No good connection between atlatl and arthritis.
Bridges, Patricia S.
1996 Skeletal biology and behavior in ancient humans. Evolutionary Anthropology 4:112-120.
Brown, Jeffrey L.
1967 The Use of Atlatl Weights: A Suggestion. Southwestern Lore 32(4): 84-85.
Mechanical principles (atlatl as lever) suggest that weight decreases efficiency by adding inertia, but also adds angular momentum which increases stability of throwing arc and thus accuracy.
1938 Antiquity of the Bow. American Antiquity 3(4): 358-359.
Precursor to Browne 1940, disputes Baker + Kidder 1937 that bow relatively recent, Folsom points "made for efficient bow and arrow shooting"
1940 Projectile Points. American Antiquity 5 (3): 209‑213.
Size of points is not a good marker for dating "pre-bow" - Pt 87 mm long, 37 wide on arrow still shoots ‑ many "too large" pts actually ok for bow and arrow.
Experiments with self bow and Basketmaker type atlatl: "Any close degree of accuracy is impossible with atlatl and spear." (uses overhead sweep, full extension) 6 mo practice "can't hit buffalo 1 out of 10 at 30 yards." Bow much more accurate. Dart greater penetration than arrow with same pt. Maximum atlatl throw 81 yards. [I wonder why his accuracy was so poor with atlatl?]
Bruechert, Lorenz W.
1996 The Bannerstone: A Continuing Enigma. The Atlatl 9(2):1-3.
Atlatl weight theory (Webb) is most accepted, but experiments show doesn't add force or velocity. Baer, Blair suggest "spinning stone" [= spindle whorl] from ethnographic analogy, a find with short slate shaft in bannerstone hole [but only a few wild fibers are suitable for spinning, and associations documented by Webb and others suggest atlatl connection].
Bruechert, Lorenz W.
1995 Recovery of a Spear Thrower in Chile. The Atlatl 8(1): 1-2
Possibly associated with female burial, cemetery ca 1600AD [he must mean BC -Cinchorro stage, Early Agricultural] .
Long narrow stick, curved, 60 cm L, 15 mm W, missing hook, partly cane, poor illustration shows what seem to be finger loops.
Info summarized from Focacci + Chacon 1989.
Bruechert, Lorenz W.
1998 Mummy Burial of the Muisca Empire. The Atlatl 11(2):1
Recovered with mummy, ceramic cup.
Straight wood shaft with lashed on shell male hook, and larger shell hook forming grip. Ceramic date 1300-1450. [Photo, no measurements]
1999 Dart-Throwers in Washington and Oregon: Similarities and Differences. The Atlatl 12(2):1-5.
Whale-bone frags from Seaside, Oregon, Par-Tee Site represent up to 75 throwers. Reconstructed with male or mixed hook [unclear how good the evidence] and integral carved double loop handle like Aztec. Weights found [but not apparently in association]. Dates here and elsewhere show use of atlatl until almost 1000 AD on Pacific Coast. Compares to McClure, Roaring Springs,, and Skagit.
1999 Iceman Discovery in British Columbia, Canada. The Atlatl 12(4):1-2.
Glacial find, man with equipment including atlatl, only 2nd found in BC, apparently new type. Probably caribou hunting, ca. 1445 AD. [short note only, refs other finds]
2000 Discovery of an Iceman in Northern British Columbia Chips 12(2):12.
Kwaday Dan Sinchi find briefly described. Unusual form atlatl. Dates C14 420-530 BP [doesn’t point out that this is real late after bow].
2000 Old and New World Dart-Throwers and Related Topics: An Annotated Bibliography. World Atlatl Association, Aurora, Colorado.
Very thorough bibliography, some annotation, mostly abstracts from articles. Divided into 9 main topic areas, with topical index and keywords.
2001 Publication Confuses Early Old World Dart-thrower Use. The Atlatl 14(3):7.
Criticizes Farmer 1994 – N. African Middle Paleolithic origins of spear thrower based on redating of Aterian stemmed points. These are not adequate evidence of atlatl. [Quite right!]
1904 Two Ancient Mexican Atlatls. American Anthropologist 7:218‑221.
Butler, B. Robert, and Douglas Osborne
1959 Archaeological Evidence for the Use of Atlatl Weights in the Northwest. American Antiquity 25(2): 215-224.
104 specimens, 3 main types, weights range 30-300 gm, distribution mostly Columbian and Fraser Rivers, steatite, felsite, limestone, galena.
Type 1: dome with flat sides + flat or concave base, drilled through sides, one zoomorphic
Type 2: elongate "boatstone" with flat base, notched at ends
Type 3: most common, short, globular, notched across center
Dates est 2500-600 BP
Some found in pairs, mixed types, one assoc with copper bead, most probably in cremation burials.
Butler, William B.
1975 The Atlatl: The Physics of Function and Performance. Plains Anthropologist 20 (68): 105‑110.
Counters Howard 1974 – Atlatl is used as lever, motion extends above head to length of arm and atlatl. Uses a mathematical model, reanalyzes Howard’s distance figures for velocity and momentum [did he actually try it? ‑ not mentioned, I expect not].
Butler, William B.
1977 Atlatl Functions, Fancy, Flex, and Fun. A Reply to Howard. Plains Anthropologist 22(76 pt 1): 161‑162.
Reiterates rotational view, suggests experiment with dart held parallel to shaft to prove impossibility [but doesn't do it], mentions possibility
of flexing atlatl analog to spinning rod.
Butler, William B.
1979 The Wood Projectile Point Penetration Study. In Megafauna Punchers’ Review Vol 1 No. 1, edited by Bruce Rippeteau.
Spoof journal title of informal report on butchery experiments with circus elephant “Margie” in Denver, June 1979. Includes butchery account by Rippeteau, Clovis thrusting spear experiment by Bruce Huckell. Other participants included B. Bradley, M. Wormington, G. Frison.
Butler made 2 darts of pine dowel, 122 cm long, 92 and 99 gm, apparently unfletched, with sharpened ends, one fire-hardened. Penetration poor, only 3-7 cm when thrown from 3-4 m away into belly skin. Suggests need heavier darts and small diameter sharp points.
[Very primitive experiment with poor equipment, doesn’t seem Butler was very experienced with practical atlatl use at this time either.]
2002 Why Do They Throw? The Atlatl 15(4):15
Short profiles of Jacques Pernaud, Uli Weigel, Russell Richard, Pascal Chavaux.
1987 Perfecting Stone Age Technology: The Atlatl, A Great Leap Backward. Mother Earth News, July, 1987. Accessed 2/2002 BPS Engineering web page http://www.atlatl.com.
Bob Perkins and Paul Leininger, engineering students at Montana State U., “whose work will revolutionize archaeological thinking about atlatls.” The “Mammoth Hunter” is first working commercial atlatl, have sold about 75 of them. Explains theories that need flexible atlatl and dart, weight tunes them. “You actually launch a wave down the dart. It reaches the end and begins to travel back. Meanwhile the atlatl bends back and stores tension. At the point of launch, the waves from the atlatl and the dart should cancel one another and turn into acceleration. The dart should be stretched out to its full length as the atlatl is releasing its stored tension. A weight will bring these waves into phase…it’s a timing device.” [Good explanation, but theory is incorrect because neither atlatl nor dart oscilates before throw, they merely bend.] At 1985 5th World’s Open Atlatl Context, only 2 out of 50 competitors used flexible darts. [Check that – if true, surprising.] Perkins and Leininger claiming to have popularized flexible dart 1985 and winning in 1986.
1998 What About Atlatl Bob? Outside 23(12):55-60. (December 1998)
Facetious account of Bob Perkins and his encounters with atlatls and primitive skills. [Atlatls not very well described for public audience.]
1994 A Mammoth Undertaking. Bulletin of Primitive Technology 1(7):23-39.
“The Ginsburg experiment” – butchering circus elephant with Stanford, Bonnichsen, Morlan, G. Haynes in 1978. Focus here on spear tests to examine hafting and basal ends of Clovis points. A few hand throws – penetration only to point hafting. Most throws with simple stick atlatl, unweighted – penetration half depth of chest cavity. Concludes atlatl necessary to kill elephant with Clovis weaponry. Variety of points and haftings tried, some illustrated. Deep slot, tapered distal end on foreshaft as wide as point base, not just flute, seems to work best. Penetration usually ends with foreshaft if shaft is larger diameter, so long foreshafts best. Best results with long flexible unfletched spear. [Useful discussion and illustration of hafting alternatives, unfortunately he never did the detailed evaluation of the alternatives that was planned.]
Campbell, Paul D.
1999 Survival Skills of Native California. Gibbs Smith Publisher, Salt Lake City.
Covers all sorts of stuff in detail. Chapter on atlatls and darts pp. 307-319. Good illustrations of several ancient atlatl specimens, some male hooks on round shaft with single finger loop, others flat board with double finger notches. Late survival in Baja California. Dimensions for some archaeological dart shafts given.
1989 Un crochet de propulseur Solutreen de la Grotte de Combe-Sauniere 1 (Dordogne).[A Solutrean Spear Thrower Hook from the Cave of Combe-Sauniere 1.] Bulletin de la Societe Prehistorique Francaise 86(7):213-216.
Short distal end piece with male hook, made of reindeer antler tine. Solutrean levels, associated with shouldered points. Decorated with a few lines. On tine, so originally short. Similar specimens beveled to attach to atlatl, tried experimentally. [If context correct, earliest spear thrower find]
Booklet, focus on artifactual evidence, well illustrated with line drawings and a few color photos, lots of pictures of European stone and bone dart points, some Upper Paleolithic and ethnographic spear throwers. Also spears, bows, boomerangs, etc.
2001 Le Propulseur. Musee de Malgre-Tout, Treignes, Belgium.
Glossy color pamphlet, 6 pages. Well illustrated basics of Old World archaeology and ethnography of atlatl.
Chatters, James C.
2001 Ancient Encounters: Kennewick Man and the First Americans. Simon and Schuster, New York.
First half covers the disgusting story of how the Corps of Engineers and Indian activists tried to destroy Kennewick and prevent scientific study. Second half describes and interprets the find in light of other early skeletons (they are physically different from Archaic and later Indians) and presents Chatters’ theories of the peopling of the Americas.
Kennewick (adult male skeleton, Washington state, C14 dates 8,410 + 60 B.P. = 7330-7580 BC calibrated) has a Cascade type projectile point in healed wound in his right hip. Angle suggests that he tried to dodge, so probably not accidental. Depth suggests high velocity, probably atlatl.
Christenson, Andrew L.
1986 Projectile Point Size and Projectile Aerodynamics ‑ An Exploratory Study.
Plains Anthropologist 31 (112): 109‑128.
Useful theoretical consideration of variety of factors. [Includes my favorite jargon: points are part of "complex projectile delivery systems."]
Churchill, Steven E.
2002 Of Assegais and Bayonets: Reconstructing Prehistoric Spear Use. Evolutionary Anthropology 11:185-186.
[Responding to Kortlandt 2002] Assumes that thrusting spears used underhand like bayonet based on muscular advantage, military use, and lack of ethnographic details. Ethnog suggests both overhand and underhand use, and preference for thrusting rather than throwing. Underhand thrust allows better withdrawal for multiple thrusts, and better defensive posture.
Churchill, Steven E.
2003 Experimental Evidence Concerning Spear Use in Neanderthals and Early Modern Humans. Journal of Archaeological Science 30:103-114.
Argues that Neanderthal humeri are asymmetrical, with right more robust. They are wider front to back, compared to Upper Paleolithic humeri which are rounder, consistent with (tortional) throwing loads. Neanderthal asymmetry more likely to result from thrusting spears, and the Lower and Middle Paleolithic spears so far found are large and heavy, better for thrusting than throwing. In an underhand thrust, the strong hand is at the back, and takes most of the (bending) stress.
Experiment used 8 untrained subjects thrusting. Showed assymetrical stress on trailing arm, high enough load to stimulate bone remodeling. So experiment and skeletal studies are consistent with belief that spear thrower did not appear until into the Upper Paleolithic.
[He’s probably right, but problems with his projects include small sample of experimental subjects, small sample of relevant prehistoric bones, and the many other assymetrical things right-handed people do with their arms.]
Clausen, Carl J., H.K. Brooks, and Al B. Wesolowsky
1975 The Early Man Site at Warm Mineral Springs, Florida. Journal of Field Archaeology 2(3):191-213.
Underwater excavations in sinkhole, human remains deposited into water-laid levels [but see Cockrell and Murphy 1978], mention of possible shell atlatl hook.
1994 Guinness Record Holder... The Atlatl 7(1):8
Wayne Brian (Mesa AZ) modern distance record, now claims primitive record of 475'3" (144.9 m)
Cockrell, W. A. and Larry Murphy
1978 Pleistocene Man in Florida. Archaeology of Eastern North America 6:1-13.
Brief info on Warm Mineral Springs, Pleistocene sinkhole now filled with water, excavations on ledge produced flexed burial dated 10,319 B.P., earlier material below. Associated with burial is shell artifact "atlatl hook" [drawn, not
described, see Purdy 1991:197 for photo].
These layers deposited when hole was dry. [Disputed by Clausen et al. 1975 - if deposited into spring, associations not good - if good assoc in dry deposit, and correct ID of artifact, then this is a very early date for atlatl in Americas]
Coggins, Clemency Chase, and Orrin C. Shane
1984 Cenote of Sacrifice: Maya Treasures from the Sacred Well at Chichen Itza. University of Texas Press, Austin.
Pictures and short descriptions of: almost complete wooden atlatl, straight, groove and hook, two finger holes with narrow in between; corner notched chert atlatl dart points, hook ends of 2 serpentine atlatls of wood, with groove and hook isolated by carving in groove, carved snake decorations, scepters with rudimentary atlatl hooks, fragment of shell finger loop carved with snakes.
[atlatl form here is straight wooden, with groove and hook, and carved or lashed on loops of shell or other material]
Cole, George S.
1972 The Bannerstone as a Spear Weight. Michigan Archaeologist 18 (1): 1‑7.
Center drilled bannerstones probably spear weight ‑ give added impact, weights
not help if on atlatl. [Nonsense!]
1992 Throwing darts with the Baton de Commandement. Bulletin of Primitive Technology 1(4):38-42
Pierced “batons” with cord used as spear thrower. Some archaeological evidence of possibility. [Clever and plausible, needs better instructions]
Corliss, David W.
1980 Arrowpoint or Dart Point: An Uninteresting Answer to a Tiresome Question. American Antiquity 45(2):351-352.
Response to Thomas 1978. Point neck width can be a useful attribute marking temporal or cultural change whether or not it indicates anything about hafting
Cotterell, Brian, and Johan Kamminga
1990 The Mechanics of Pre‑Industrial Technology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Includes section on atlatl and spear mechanics with physical formulae.
Atlatl should not bend, or it is inefficient.
Spear should bend, but within predictable limits.
Atlatl weights give no mechanical advantage, heavier atlatl inefficient.
Couch, Jeffrey S., Tracy A. Stropes, and Adella B. Schroth
1999 The Effect of Projectile Point Size on Atlatl Dart Efficiency. Lithic Technology 24(1):27-37.
Point size makes no difference in throwing distance. [Weak experimental design (small sample human throws) and dubious theoretical orientation (Perkins) but conclusion correct. However human variability in throws should be expected to outweigh difference in points, and the real useful info here is the demonstration that all point sizes work about equally, so point size is not necessarily a good marker of atlatl vs bow]
1988 At Long Last, An Atlatl of Your Very Own. Sports Illustrated Nov 14, 1988, no pages given. Retrieved Jan 24, 1998 from the World Wide Web: http://web.lexis-nexis.com/universe/ but does not occur as claimed in that issue of Sports Illustrated.
Modern atlatl for experiment and sport, Leininger and Perkins featured.
Cressman, Luther S.
1944 New Information on South-Central Oregon Atlatls. The Masterkey 13(6): 169-179.
Plush Cave site described, atlatl from looter backdirt.
Simple Basketmaker type atlatl, missing its loops, groove + hook, no evidence of weight, 19mm wide, 54.5 cm long, [pictures poor] . Associated dart parts and basketry.
Cressman, Luther S. and Alex D. Krieger
1940 Atlatls and Associated Artifacts from South-central Oregon. In Early Man in Oregon: Archaeological Studies in the Northern Great Basin. L.S. Cressman, H. Williams, A.D. Krieger eds, pp 16-52. University of Oregon Studies in Anthropology No 3.
2 complete atlatls and two fragments from Roaring Springs Cave.
Lower levels mostly large points, upper levels large + small points, arrows and bows and darts and atlatls apparently together [but possible mixing of deposits] .
Two atlatls together in cach, similar, one large, one small.
Both mountain mahogany, convex wide [inflexible] boards with ridge on underside, integral wood hook, deeply notched grip, no weight, painted with ochre.
L = 70 cm, 53 cm; Max W = 7 cm, 5 cm; small photographs.
Plush Cave atlatl mentioned, Basketmaker form. World distribution of atlatl types discussed. Compares RS atlatl with Lovelock Cave and BM types.
Dart shafts of cane and wood, painted. Point types discussed.
Cundy, B. J.
1989 Formal Variation in Australian Spear and Spearthrower Technology. BAR International Series 546, Oxford.
[Actually covers only Central Australia and the northern half of the Northern Territory so some important types and variation not included. A very good study although marred by many typos and almost no illustrations of spearthrowers and spears. Probably the best source on spearthrower mechanics and physics, but the explanations are not always clear. I’ve translated into English as much as I can.]
1. Intro: Variation should be explained by technological and functional factors as well as cultural differences.
2. Technological comparison and performance: Compares to hand thrown spears. Tasmania had no spearthrower, hand thrown spears 40-70 yards, maybe up to 100m, typically spears 4m long, .6 kg. [He discounts shorter distance records as non-comparable, but these Tasmanian ones seem exaggerated, when javelin record is 98m.]
Spear thrower records: Falkenberg (1968) measured throws in Northern Territory of 90-125m, one 180m, but special gear – small reed spears. Thomson (unpub) recorded 49-105 m in Arnhem Land. Mountford (unpub) got 50-91 m. Consider 70 m as a “rule of thumb” average max distance, so not really better than hand thrown.
Accuracy is hard to compare from ethnographic accounts, but usual max accurate range 20 m. At moderate size targets, comparable accuracy to bow, but atlatl accuracy decreases more rapidly as target gets smaller or more distant. So why atlatl? Perhaps reduces necessity of learning throwing skills, i.e., it’s easier than hand throwing, both in skill and effort, freeing hunter to invest in other skills and activities. [I think he understates the improvement possible with spear thrower.]
3. Aerodynamic factors: “Vacuum model” of throw considers only gravitational and projection force, not aerodynamic factors, and predicts 45 degree angle for maximum distance throw. But drag (air friction) greatly reduces theoretical maximum. Spears unlikely to have much lift. Center of pressure must be behind center of gravity to keep straight flight, either by having most of the weight forward, or adding drag to rear of shaft, as in fletching. Most experiments suggest center of gravity should be between .25-.33 length on unfletched projectiles. Compares modern javelin, weighted and shaped to glide maximum distance but still land point first. “Range but not in-flight behavior equaled” by Australians. Palter (1977): 293 spears, center of gravity at .25-.48 length, thus many would stall if thrown for distance, but this was of secondary importance in their use.
4. Wound Ballistics: Penetration depends on motion and shape of projectile. Motion measured by kinetic energy, momentum, power, mass, and velocity, with most favoring kinetic energy. (Mass x velocity squared over 2). Because of drag from the material penetrated, heavier projectiles penetrate deeper than lighter higher velocity ones. Shape and size of missile affect drag. Surprisingly little energy is needed to penetrate skin and flesh.
5. Propulsion: Body levers in timed sequence, with slow but powerful (trunk, thighs) first, then faster but weaker joints (hands, arms), so each contributes its maximum. For light projectiles, skill (timing of muscle sequence) more important; for heavy, strength more important (e.g. baseball vs javelin). Mason (1884) and Howard (1974) use impulse model (atlatl increases time of thrust on spear). Howard’s model is unlikely on mechanical grounds, and predicts that spearthrower length is of little importance. Most analyses use lever model, seeing atlatl as lengthening arm. Atlatl is not a lever, but can be analyzed as part of lever system. [A confusing and unnecessary quibble. As subsequent discussion makes clear, atlatl and wrist do in fact act as lever and fulcrum.] Rotating short end of atlatl at wrist by applying strong force moves the long end a greater distance in the same time, thus faster, thus increasing velocity of spear. Analyzes 1970 ethnographic film of throwing. Motion is similar to conventional overhand throw, a sequence of 1) forward body motion, 2) shoulder rotation 3) arm rotation, and 4) wrist rotation [flexion]. Spearthrower increases length of resistance arm of any body lever in the same plane. If used more horizontally [side-arm], emphasizes shoulder + body rotation, if vertical, emphasizes arm and wrist. Stronger individuals may tend to use more vertically. Most of the gain in velocity is from wrist action in last .1 second of throw.
If spearthrower load is too great [too heavy, too much wind resistance] then velocity reduced. If too light, high acceleration reached at expense of power development.
Longer spear thrower increases linear velocity at tip (and spear) but increases load about the wrist faster because proportional to square of length between wrist and center of gravity of atlatl.
6) Spear and Spearthrower Articulation
At rest, atlatl weight bends wrist back, spear weight counters this, bends forward. Bannerstones may help balance, but not used in Australia.
As wrist flexes to lever spear thrower, and spear stays in line, the tail of the spear must rise, so spear must flex a distance proportional to the length of the atlatl. The flex also stores energy that can be converted into kinetic energy later, and add to spear velocity, but spear detaches from atlatl before that is complete, so some of the energy stored as flex remains, resulting in wave-like shaft vibration. If shaft does not store enough energy by flexing, it will be tipped toward the ground; too much and it may buckle.
Thrower must overcome inertia of spear and atlatl tip. Longer atlatl has higher velocity, but rapidly loses advantage because inertia is function of length squared, so doubling length quadruples inertia. Shorter atlatl, lower possible velocity, but can throw heavier spear. Different spear and atlatl combinations optimize for either high velocity with low energy (light spear), or high energy with low velocity (heavy spear). [Of course, but how then do Australians use combination of long (and heavy) atlatl with very long and heavy spear? Even with my lighter spears, their woomeras are too long. Tables show some spears 400-500 gms, 4 x what mine weigh.] Can make atlatl lighter as gets longer, but then need to increase rigidity because energy stored as atlatl flex will only be released at end of throw as lateral movement of spear shaft.
7) Structural relationships. 1. Positive correlation between mass of atlatl and mass of spear. 2. Inverse relation between length of atlatl and mass of spear. 3. Inverse between length and mass of atlatl. 4. If optimizing for high velocity, atlatl inertia may be reduced by concentrating mass about the wrist pivot, in which case mass and length may be positively correlated. Test on specimens from Northern Territory, 5 types of spearthrower, but can’t match individual spears to atlatls, uses sample means. Expectations generally confirmed.
8) Spear and Spearthrower forms.
Central Australian: Leaf, paddle, or scoop shaped, lashed on hook, resin lump at handle, often with inset stone flake. [What most people think of as Australian “woomera.”] Form linked to manufacture from cambium of mulga tree, and secondary uses as tray, club, musical instrument, etc. Appears inefficient – wind resistance of wide shape, but used either flat or edge-on.
Cushing, Frank H.
1895 The Arrow. The American Anthropologist 8(4):307‑349.
[Fascinating early article by one of the first experimental archaeologists.]
Arrow used before bow invented.
Study specific for general laws of man’s development. Good quotes on above, personal and individual nature of anthro, philosophy of study and need for replication. His discovery of arrowmaking. Arrows described (SW example) "Knapping" ‑ direct, indirect, pressure described. Arrow making ‑ includes straight and smooth w/stone, grooved grinder for foreshafts, wrenches. [Wild] speculations on human and arrow beginnings. Proposes development of spear thrower through some weakly documented forms of spear sling, spear palm, etc. ‑ short throwers with rope for end ‑ [some require propel spear from extreme distal end, which I doubt possible]. Springy atlatl of cliff dwellers ‑ claims his works. Reconstructs a "stringed bow crook" [combination atlatl and bow] from Zuni war paho, and "Bow crotch" [an even more absurd idea], from which derives reflex bow.
Cushing, Frank Hamilton
1897 Explorations of Ancient Key Dwellers' Remains on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 35(153):329-448.
Describes at length the project and various remains.
Atlatls: two types - 1. Double holed, 18" long, slight curve, originally springy, with groove and spur, flared handle end. 2. Single holed, 19", more curved and thicker and wider, short groove, spur is tail of carved rabbit, handle turned down volute. Suggests that some shark-tooth "swords" were also atlatls [but hard to evaluate from his descriptions and poor drawing].
See Gilliland 1975.
1909 Voyage of the Beagle. Harvard Classics, P. F. Collier and Son, New York.
January 12, 1836, near Bathhurst, southeast Australia: “At sunset a party of a score of the black aborigines passed by, each carrying, in their accustomed manner, a bundle of spears and other weapons. By giving the leading man a shilling, they were easily detained, and threw their spears for my amusement… In their own arts they are admirable. A cap being fixed at thirty yards distance, they transfixed it with a spear, delivered by the throwing-stick with the rapidity of an arrow from the bow of a practised archer.”
Davenport, J. Walker
1943 Some Experiments in the Use of the Atlatl. Bulletin of the Texas Archaeological and Paleontological Society 15:30‑37.
Very accurate and powerful, not as much as bow but good (motion ‑ overhand, wrist snap to extend atlatl adds power).
Davidson, D. S.
1936 The Spearthrower in Australia. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 76(4):445-483.
In historic Pacific confined to Yap, Palau, parts of New Guinea and Australia
[His interest is in tracing diffusionary patterns]. Maybe originated in Asia, but no evidence, spread to Europe in Upper Paleolithic 20,000.
Probably not too old in Australia, but 1000s of years. But lacking in Tasmania and some parts Australia, so not fully diffused, so not too old.
All but couple possible exceptions are "male" type hooks, which need socket in spear. Hand thrown spears usually too heavy too, and some areas had elaborate carved barbs on wooden spears - reasons not to change to spearthrower.
Overlap of spear weights, but hand thrown spears generally heavier. Heavier spear with thrower needs shorter thrower.
Maps distribution: most of Aust except SE - lacking in "peripheral" areas so recent intro, slow spread. Probably from New Guinea [no evidence]. Reed spears with wooden heads only where spearthrowers, but only in part of spearthrower range, so a later development of spear to go with throwers.
Area of "negative distribution" (E-central) defined by Graebner, Radcliffe-Brown - but actually patchy presence there, little info.
Three types defined, distributions mapped, spread speculated:
1) Broad leaf-like (W + interior) wood slab, gum knob handle, often with stone adze flake inset, some with incised decoration, different regional varieties.
2) Lath-like (S + W coast, North) flat strip of wood, grip often gum, peg hook. Queensland subtype (N-E) [should be separate type, quite different], lath is vertical, not flat, no flex at all, little wind resistance, shell + gum handle, peg hook.
3) Stick-like (N + SE). N has tasseled handle, some gum handles, peg hooks, some integral carved hook, often very simple. SE types bulge or paddle-shaped.
Davis, Carl M., and James D. Keyser
1999 McKean Complex Projectile Point Typology and Function in the Pine Parklands. Plains Anthropologist 44(169):251-270.
McKean complex includes contemporary different Archaic point types, for which different functions are suggested. Duncan-Hanna points are considered to be atlatl dart points, while McKean Lanceolate and Mallory points were used on thrusting spears, thus providing an optimal weapon assemblage. Uses rock art, ethnographic, breakage, and design evidence.
1993 Like a Rolling Stone: The Chunkey Game and Political Organization in Eastern North America. Southeastern Archaeology 12(2):83-92.
Roll the chunkey stone, throw the pole, score by closeness to end point of stone. Gambling game related to universal N. American hoop and pole game. Data from 97 archaeological discoidals or chunkey stones from Cahokia area suggest started Late Woodland as popular game with stones found in middens and child burials, but during rise and peak of Cahokia center, stones are standardized and in burials of elite males. Suggests elite took over as symbol (sun, earth, directions, woodhenges) used to legitimate rulers, and also to control economic exchange and distraction represented by chunkey gambling. [No suggestion of atlatl association with chunkey, but could adapt well as a modern atlatl game.]
2002 Les Faons aux Oiseaux. Le Propulseur 4/5:1-5.
[In French] Of about 100 Upper Paleolithic European spearthrowers, 7 from France represent the “fawn with birds” motif [a hornless ungulate peering backward over its shoulder at the hook, which is usually interpreted as showing a bird pecking at a fecal pellet emerging from the anus.] All are from Pyrenees and dating to the middle Magdalenian, C14 dated 15,340-13,280 BP. There are two complete (Mas d’Azil and Bedheilhac) and five partial. The facial and back markings indicate Rupicapra [Chamois], not fawns or wild sheep, although they lack the small horns of chamois. The bird interpretation has never been convincing [very true!]; the hooks actually resemble hooks on other spearthrower forms, and Bandi (1988) has convincingly argued that they represent a birth. Perforations and traces of resin suggest additional decoration.
The fragmentary specimens seem to be the same as the two whole, but the quality of representation varies, so they are not the work of one artist. The similarities here and in other Paleolithic art show strong cultural rules producing stereotyped representations. Only spearthrowers have the birthing chamois motif, and if we have 7 surviving, there must have been many.
All are male type spearthrowers, and all are carved of reindeer antler. Only Mas d’Azil is complete enough to show how a wooden handle might have been attached by three perforations, and since it is only 30 cm long, there must have been one, since ethnographic spearthrowers average around 69 cm. Replication experiments show that a lot of time was required, although with practice one gets better with stone tools. Soaking the antler in warm water makes it easier to work. Burins and other stone tools can leave a smooth finish, or the antler can be polished with fine sand or ochre, which is visible on the Bedeilhac specimen. The pieces studied are relatively heavy, around 60 gm, and perhaps helped counterbalance the spear. However, they also seem fragile, especially those with perforations separating the legs, and may have been less functional than decorative or ritual. [Strength is hard to estimate, and may not matter too much if the spear is not too heavy. Emmanuel is one of the modern French using replicas of Mas d’Azil with heavy spears. Pascal Chavaux is another, and says he has broken some throwers.]
Dickson, D. Bruce
1985 The Atlatl Assessed: A Review of Recent Anthropological Approaches to Prehistoric North American Weaponry. Bulletin of the Texas Archaeological Society 56:1-36.
[Thorough review, good references, some mistakes.]
Seems to accept theory of lengthened contact with spear rather than lever or spring.
Most experiments show weights are no help.
Atlatl survived for advantages in aquatic hunting and warfare.
2001 Aleut Throwing Board. The Dart: Ohio Atlatl Association Newsletter. March 2001: 4-5.
Instructions for making rigid rectangular board with inset male hook, shaped handgrip. Traditional measurements by hand size.
Doucette, Dianna L.
2001 Decoding the Gender Bias: Inferences of Atlatls in Female Mortuary Contexts. In Gender and the Archaeology of Death, B. Arnold and N. L. Wicker eds., pp. 159-177. Altamira Press, Walnut Creek, CA.
Do burial goods accurately reflect life roles of individual? Interpretations of atlatls at Indian Knoll, KY, and Annasnappet Pond, MA, both Archaic.
Indian Knoll 6100-4500 B.P., over 1000 burials, of which 76 with atlatl components, including 13 females and 14 indeterminate. Early arguments about function of antler hooks and drilled stones: net hooks and sizers, hair ornaments, ceremonial banner stones on staffs. No gender interpretations it was not until these artifacts were identified as hunting tools that they became problematic as grave goods in female burials.
Webb identified as atlatls, and checked association of parts, but did not dig much beyond body, so can’t tell if darts were with them. Webb saw as partly ceremonial because it is hardly to be supposed that women would have had any practical use in life for an atlatl.
Annasnappet Pond, Archaic component cremation with 2 weights aligned with 2 large points, date 7570 B.P. Pit was large, and cremation could have been offering with perished unburned individual. Sexing not possible. Atlatls may have been articulated with darts. Position of points in pit suggests 125 cm darts, shorter than most expect, and not requiring much upper body strength.
Critiques: Winters (1968) did not want to see women as atlatl users, but his interpretations are based on ethnocentric gender biases. Lots of ethnographic cases where women hunt. Atlatl makes spear throwing easy regardless of body size.
Drake, David and Jim Kjelgaard
1990 The Hunter Returns. Simon and Schuster, New York.
See Kjelgaard 1951.
Drass, Richard, and Robert Brooks
1984 A Boatstone and Atlatl Hook from Central Oklahoma. Newsletter of the Oklahoma Anthropological Society 32(2):7-10.
Found in grave with M, F, juvenile - near R arm of adult male.
Limestone weight, antler hook - Indian Knoll type.
Possibly late - site is Woodland, but bones not dated [so no reason to believe it is not earlier Archaic grave].
2002 Art of the Ancients. The Atlatl 15(2):1-2. (Anchorage Daily News, 12/17/01).
Yukon River Yup’ik still hunting spotted seal with motorboats and “nuqat” atlatls. Flat “throw board” with finger hole, 4 foot small harpoon with feathers and ivory or brass head. Multiple boats and hunters include young folk. More effective than rifle because better recovery of seal. [A bit gee-whiz, and little atlatl detail, but ok].
2000 Chasse et activites physiques dans la Prehistoire: les marqueurs osseux d’activites chez l’homme fossile. Anthropologie et Prehistoire 111 : 156-165.
[Hunting and physical activity in prehistory : boney markers of activities in fossil man.]
Reviews theory, literature. Modern javelin throwing is well documented, relevant to prehistory. Three phase throw: run-up ending on right foot, tranfer of body weight from right to left foot with rotation of shoulders over hips, release and follow through. Elbow is particularly stressed, resulting in arthitic conditions of the epitrochlear muscle insertions on the inner side of the distal humerus. Archaeological example: prehistoric Saharan hunters – “Cromagnoids” from Neolithic lakeside sites with large fauna, microlithic industries, and bone harpoons. Two elbows with characteristic lesions (out of 38), suggest harpooners.
2002 Chronicler of Ice Age Life. Archaeology 55(6):36-41.
Flattering article on Jean Auel, praising accuracy and detail of her fiction. Excerpt on atlatl use from Shelters of Stone “Holding the spear-thrower horizontally in his right hand, with his thumb and index fingers through the two front loops, he quickly slapped a spear into the groove. He slid it back so that the hook of the thrower, which also acted as a backstop, fit into the hole in the fletched butt end, and without hesitation he launched the spear. He did it so quickly, many people hardly noticed the way that the back end of the thrower raised up while he held on to the front with the aid of the loops, effectively adding the length of the spear-thrower to the length of his arm and thereby gaining the advantage of the additional leverage.”
Photo of Auel “demonstrating proper atlatl form.” [Unfortunately, she isn’t – couldn’t possibly get a good throw with elbow low, wrist forward. Maybe the photographer’s fault, but since she writes with lots of technological detail of many things, but still portrays Paleolithic people who think like suburban Californians, and has no understanding of real prehistoric life, I want to see her throw before I believe she knows how. The excerpt is typical – implausible emphasis on speed (also seen in her descriptions of slings), and with lots of detail, but it’s plainly the wrong kind of atlatl! She’s describing a SW “Basketmaker” form – late, N.American. The Upper Paleolithic spear throwers that we know had no groove, and no evidence of finger loops.]
1903 Notes on the Weapons of the Dalleburra Tribe, Queensland, lately presented to the British Museum by Mr. Robert Christison. Man 3(19):37-38.
Clubs, spear thrower and spears, and boomerangs discussed briefly.
Wommera or koolbinny “straight shaft of wood with wooden peg” attached by sinew and gum. Used with light reed spears which could be thrown 300 yards. Heavy wooden spear only thrown by hand, “accurately to distance of 120 yards.” [Distances appear to be greatly exaggerated – more than current atlatl record, more than current javelin record (98 m)].
Ekholm, Gordon F.
1962 U-Shaped "Ornaments" Identified as Finger-Loops from Atlatls. American Antiquity 28(2): 181-185.
Shell or stone U, drilled at ends = atlatl loops as seen on two Aztec specimens.
Mesoamerican distribution discussed.
1989 Bannerstones of Missouri. Missouri Archaeological Society Quarterly 6(1):8-13, 18-23.
Summarizes Knoblock's types and describes, discusses stone materials.
Favors Peet's balance while at rest theory, Howard's no catapult action [which is wrong]. No weights in W because group hunting in open.
Steatite and catlinite rarely used, hematite some, granite most common. Lists MO specimens.
1997 Factors Influencing the Use of Stone Projectile Tips: An Ethnographic Perspective. In Projectile Technology, H. Knecht ed., pp. 37-74. Plenum, New York.
Good article, nice compilation of ethnographic data on point use, good consideration of +/- factors in use of stone tips and alternatives. Not much directly related to atlatls. Conclusions: stone tips make more effective, improve light projectiles, usually indicate large game hunting.
Engvall, David P.
1995 The Dynamics of: The off-Axis-Forward-Nock Spear vs The On-Axis-Aft-Nock Spear as Thrown with an Atlatl Spear Thrower. The Atlatl 8(4):4-5
His world record: 848' 6 5/8" 7/15/95.
FNS = nock 1/4 length from butt, different motion, similar atlatl to ANS.
ANS: spur moves almost in straight line, spear flexes up or down.
FNS: spur follows curving path, spear flex is concave down, transforms into axial motion to give greater launch velocity.
Evans, Oren F.
1959 The Development of the Atlatl and the Bow. Bulletin of the Texas Archaeological Society 30:159-162.
[Mostly speculation, but a pioneer in trying atlatls.] Stick with nail atlatl, willow sapling dart 5.5 feet long. “After practicing a few times, a target a foot in diameter could be pierced at 20-30 feet about four out of five times.” Atlatl could be very effective. You guide spear with left, throw with right. “If movement of atlatl is carried too far forward and downward, it throws the butt of the spear down..” [Sounds like he was using a heavy, rigid dart, and a throw that didn’t flip the atlatl.]
2000 Before the Bow. Primitive Archer Magazine 8(4):35-40.
[Poorly written gee-whiz from archer’s viewpoint.] Features Ken Wee.
Farmer, James D.
1997 Iconographic Evidence of Basketmaker Warfare and Human Sacrifice: A Contextual Approach to Early Anasazi Art. Kiva 62(4):391-420.
Pervasive war images in SW: trophy heads, scalps, dismemberment, and weapons, both real and depicted, probable connections to Mesoamerica [not so convincing].
Lots of references to atlatls in Mesoamerican and SW art, burials with atlatls or killed by darts in SW.
[Some of his evidence and interpretations are weak, too many unsupported interpretive stretches, oversimplified innaccurate drawings of rock art].
Farmer, Malcolm F.
1994 The Origins of Weapons Systems. Current Anthropology 35(5):679-681.
Origins of bow in late Paleolithic or Mesolithic, but what is precursor?
Spearthrowers in archaeology by Magdalenian, similar mechanics of spring and flexing projectile. Atlatl weights serve to time separation of dart from
thrower [This is not correct, nor does atlatl flex do much; the mechanical ideas are open to dispute].
Similar distributions of early bow and spear thrower: NW Africa, W Europe, Mid E, so probably both originated in Maghreb, where spearthrower appeared in Aterian Culture 40,000 b.p. [no evidence offered, dubious conclusion - Aterian has stemmed projectile points, but no evidence of atlatl, see Bruchert 2001]
Fawcett, William B.
1998 Chronology and Projectile Point Neck-Width: An Idaho Example. North American Archaeologist 19(1):59-86.
Neck-width provides more continuous, simpler chronological indicator than point type. From published data, derives formula for dating points by neck-width. N-W decreases through time, partly because change from dart to arrow, but suggests long overlap between 2500-1500 B.P. [He documents and discusses the trend, but there is too much variability in his data to believe his formula accurately predicts the date of any point.]
1953 Weights of Chipped Stone Points: A Clue to Their Functions. Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 9(3): 3-09-323.
Weighed 884 points from 16 sites in CA plus 1 NV Anasazi, 1 NB 18th C Apache, 1 ND protohistoric, 1 SD protohistoric, 1 MO Archaic, 1 MO Hopewell. Finds bimodality: less than 3.49 gm, and more than 4.5 gm (only 33 = 3.7% fall between). Suggests small point tradition reflects bow and arrow, late sites, while large point tradition is atlatl, earlier sites. Notes contradictory evidence: Browne 1938 and his own experiments with atlatl show small points, no points, large points all work on both arrow and dart. Late metal arrow points also heavier, but early ones fit pattern. Some sites with both sizes may have atlatl and bow coexisting. [Widely cited, perhaps a good rule of thumb, but no more than that. Would like to know what else he tried with atlatls.]
Fenenga, Franklin, and Robert F. Heizer
1941 The Origin and Authenticity of an Atlatl and an Atlatl Dart from Lassen County, California. American Antiquity 7(2):134-141.
Atlatl of willow, simple stick, slightly curved, with slight finger notches, groove and integral hook, 75 cm long. Cane dart, hardwood foreshaft broken off, 115 cm long, weighs 35.2 gm, v-shaped nock like arrow, 3 radial fletchings. Authors made and tested models, cast 150-250 feet.
Origin: Owned in 1910s-20s by “Charlie Paiute,” Maidu, who claimed to hunt with it. His daughter and others deny, as do ethnographic California groups in culture trait studies, although several archaeological specimens are known from the area. Could be conservative survival, fake or experiment by CP, who may have known about SW atlatls, or found a specimen and reinvented use. Authors favor last explanation.
[see also below and Heizer 1945, apparently it was diffusion from an archaeology!]
Fenenga, Franklin, and Robert F. Heizer
1941 Further Notes on the Susanville Atlatl. American Antiquity 8(1):120-122.
George Evans, son-in-law of Charlie Paiute, worked with M.R. Harrington at Lovelock Cave and others, made and experimented with atlatls after seeing SW types found at Council Hall Cave, NV, and is responsible for the Lassen County one above.
Fenenga, Franklin, and Joe Ben Wheat
1940 An Atlatl From the Baylor Rock Shelter, Culberson County, Texas.
American Antiquity 5(3):221-223.
From looted cave, associations described.
Basketmaker type complete except missing loops, mesquite?, 438mm L, 25 mm W, groove + flush hook, gypsum weight in middle, incised decoration distal end.
Chronological questions discussed [now outdated].
Ferg, Alan and William D. Peachey
1998 An Atlatl from the Sierra Pinacate. Kiva 64(2):175-200.
Found 1976 in small lava tube "Ten January Cave", Sonora, Mexico, in pile of rock and guano, perhaps offering. Hardwood, 55.3 cm long, 1.2 cm thick, 2.0-1.5 cm wide (hook to grip). Reworked to have notched grip with marks for loops, polished, painted red. C14 AMS date ca. 1500 B.C. = beginning of San Pedro ("Early Agricultural" = Late Archaic).
Comparative survey of SW atlatl types: Ten January atlatl closest to SW Anasazi in general form, but elevated spur and red paint are southern traits. In final form, had Anasazi type grip, but maybe replaced southern type straight sides with lashed-on shell loops.
From nearby caves 14 possible atlatl foreshaft blanks.
Current location unknown, documented in '80s by J. Hayden.
2001 Giant Ragweed Darts. The Cast, Spring 2001:2.
Not as strong as cane, but light and flexible, uses foreshaft and endshaft to strengthen, one has lasted 2 years. Prehistoric seed caches suggest if not grown as food, perhaps for darts. Cut in Fall after dried out but before rot.
Fladmark, K.R., D.E. Nelson, T.A. Brown, J.S. Vogel, and J.R. Southon
1987 AMS Dating of Two Wooden Artifacts from the Northwest Coast. Canadian Journal of Archaeology 11:1-12.
Fraser River club - ball-headed with zoomorphs, 1000+130 B.P.
Skagit River atlatl (Taylor and Caldwell 1954, Borden 1969) [of the three articles, this one has best picture and most useful description].
Carved with monster with inlaid eyes surmounting human head, and incised line decoration. Western Yew, short tapered grip with two finger holes, ca 41x1.0x4.8 cm but missing distal end. Carving ca 9x9 cm. Weathered, incompetently cleaned by finders. [Detailed description of carving given]. Fits NW coast conventions, probably "chief of the sea, keeper of wealth" as Borden suggests. Maybe non-functional - fragile [unconvincing], but yew = bow wood, suggesting wanted flexible strength to add throwing power. Carving would keep proximal end stiff. Date 1700+100 B.P. = Marpole phase, slightly later than Borden suggests.
Flenniken, J. Jeffrey
1985 Stone Tool Reduction Techniques as Cultural Markers. In Stone Tool Analysis: Essays in Honor of Don E. Crabtree. MG Plew, JC Woods, MG Pavesic eds., pp. 265‑276. Albuquerque: UNM Press.
Killed goats with atlatl darts, noted breakage, morphological change when reworked. Claims point types not valid cultural/temporal markers because they can be changed with reworking! [Incorrect, and well dismissed by Thomas 1986. The useful information in this article is the high damage rate, damage from animal motion, damage to point bases, support for "Frison effect" of change and reworking of points.]
Flenniken, J. Jeffrey and Anan W. Raymond
1986 Morphological Projectile Point Typology: Replication Experimentation and Technological Analysis. American Antiquity 51(3): 603‑614.
Similar to Flenniken 1985.
1891 The Arrow in Modern Archery. The American Anthropologist 4:63‑67
Arrow more important and difficult than bow. Rifled feathering doesn't work.
Foccaci, Guillermo A. and Sergio C. Chacon
1989 Excavatciones Arqueologicas En Los Faldeos Del Morro de Arica, Sitios Morro 1/6 Y 2/2. Revista Chungara 22: 15-62.
See Bruechert 1995 for summary of information on atlatl from grave.
Fogelman, Gary L.
1997 All About the At'latl. Turbotville: Fogelman Publishing Co.
Booklet size introduction to use, history, and variety of atlatl forms. [Good place for newcomer to start but too short, lacks depth.]
Fogelman, Gary L.
1999 Top of the World Ma! Top of the World: Atlatling 1998. Indian Artifact Magazine 18(1):6-10, 58-61.
Recounts his experiences at atlatl competitions, winning International Standard Accuracy Competitions for 1998.
Fogelman, Gary and Bob Berg
1998 Second Chance Boar. Indian Artifact Magazine 17(1):30-31, 69.
Boar hunt on NY preserve, GF, BB, and Chris Pappas. Two misses, 3 hits at 5-15 yards. Efficiency of atlatl with stone points, stone tool butchery.
1996 To Build a Better Missile: Improving on the Ancient Art of Spear Throwing. Desktop Engineering March/April 1996: 47-50.
David Engvall - records for sling etc, now atlatl, using engineering software to design. [Bad description of atlatl as "spear attachment"].
Long atlatl, 53" spear, flexible, nock forward of end, circular rather than linear arm motion, achieved 848' 6 5/8".
2001 Untitled letter. Atlatl 14(1):8.
Maruku Gallery in Australia sells Pitjantjatjara Aboriginal art, including spear throwers, still used in ceremony and contest but not for hunting. Mulga wood woomera type, “miru” with spinifex gum hafted adze on some, some decorated, some not.
1998 Hunting and Warfare of the Americas: The Physics of Atlatl Technology.
Unpublished class paper, Physics Dept, Grinnell College.
Critiques most previous discussions of atlatl physics. Arm and elbow or arm and shoulder + atlatl can be modeled as lever whose effective length changes during throw. The lever action transforms greater force applied to one end of the atlatl lever into less force but more velocity applied to the other end and the dart, and initial dart velocity is proportional to the length of the atlatl. Flex of atlatl and dart should consider traits of wood and weather conditions, which also affect optimum angle for distance, between 40 and 47 degrees. Atlatl and dart flex and act as springs, but addition of weight to atlatl is unlikely to affect this. Weight adds to moment of inertia and stabilizes motion of atlatl during throw.
1999 Using Moments of Inertia to Determine the Positions of Atlatl Weights on a Throwing Board. Unpublished class paper, Anthropology Dept, Grinnell College.
Moment of inertia is the tendency of an object to maintain its path of rotation and increases with the mass of the object and the distance from the axis of rotation. Thus a weight on a swinging atlatl stabilizes its motion and should increase accuracy. The greater the weight and the further from the handle, the more the effect, but the force necessary to swing the atlatl also increases.
Using 5 prehistoric atlatls found with weights attached, moments of inertia can be calculated, finding a narrow range. This "optimal" range of moment of inertia can then be used to model the most likely position of weights of other forms and sizes on atlatls.
Frison, George C.
1989 Experimental Use of Clovis Weaponry and Tools on African Elephants. American Antiquity 54(4): 766-783.
Clovis points used on culled elephants, observations on hafting and effectiveness, herd behavior and strategy. Hafted on wooden foreshaft socketed into mainshaft, spear weight 358-432 grams [very heavy for atlatl], but heavier got better penetration. Penetration ends when larger shaft reaches hole, so long foreshaft better, but longer breaks more easily. Points survived remarkably long use, one of five did not break (12 shots), others damaged and repaired. Tip damage most common. Rhus trilobata atlatl, with groove and integral hook, 62 cm long, rigid, no weight, 225 gm.
Atlatl thrown spear capable of inflicting mortal wounds on elephants: multiple successful hits, although lots that would not have killed too. Successful penetration of rib cage, 9-12 mm thick hide, into lung cavity at 15-20 m. Thrusting spear also successful. Hunter movement necessary in atlatl use might startle animal; other hunters to distract would help.
Butchering with biface thinning flakes. Main effort is cutting hide, quartzite more durable than chert. Dismembering is easy and may leave no marks on bone.
Elephant family groups are formidable; cooperative stalking of individuals most likely.
Gardner, Fletcher and George C. Martin
1932? A New Type of Atlatl from a Cave Shelter on the Rio Grande near Shumla, Valverde County, Texas. Big Bend Basket Maker Papers 2. Witte Memorial Museum, San Antonio, Texas.
Previous finds of notched arrows in atlatl-age deposits could be contemporaneity, or now explained by find of atlatl to cast them.
Ash wood fragment with distal groove and "wedge-shaped" hook to engage arrow nock, narrow, rigid, proximal end missing, decorative notches on bottom.
Cane arrow shaft 3/8" diam, end narrowed by sinew wrap, flared for nock, 3 feather traces.
Experimental atlatl with commercial arrows got similar range but less accuracy than bow.
[Hard to swallow - arrow engaged with hook with nock vertical - would the hook really hold for a throw? Can you actually throw something as short as an arrow with an atlatl?– I haven’t tried. Unscientific excavation - does the arrow really belong with the atlatl?]
Garrod, Dorothy A. E.
1955 Palaeolithic Spear-Throwers. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 21:21-35.
66 specimens, Magdalenian, 2 or 3 complete, 6 antler part complete but intended to have wooden extension.
Most hooked (male type), 1 or 2 groove and hook, 1 doubtful female type.
Most (41) plain "stick" type of antler, 21 "weighted" by sculpture on a palm of the antler, which incorporates hook.
Horse most common motif (29), also reindeer, deer, bison, ibex, mammoth, birds, fish, feline, musk-ox, chamois. Shaft often curved so contacts spear only at hook and handle. Some carvings may serve as weight balancing spear. Complete specimens 28-34 cm long, but hole in proximal end may be for peg to hold on wooden handle, or wooden cross bar grip - now need experiments.
Brief individual descriptions, line drawings.
Geib, Phil R. and Peter W. Bungart
1989 Implications of Early Bow Use in Glen Canyon. Utah Archaeology 2(1):32-47.
Usual view = Glen C occupied to AD 400 by Basketmaker II using atlatl, only in 7 C AD did BM III start bow and arrow. But - Sunny Beaches site etc have early b+a evidence (Rose Spring pts).
Suggest late Archaic/proto Fremont occup, using b+a earlier than any Anasazi, who stuck with atlatl , perhaps because intergroup competition prevented technological transfer.
[but a handful of points is rather weak evidence for arrival of bow and arrow]
Gehlbach, D. R.
2002 Hourglass Bannerstones of the Mississippi Valley. Indian Artifact Magazine 21(3): 46-47, 79.
Brief, reviews function theories, describes, usually made of quartz, nice color photos, warns of fakes.
Gilliland, Marion Spjut
1975 The Material Culture of Key Marco, Florida. University Presses of Florida, Gainesville.
Artifacts from F.H. Cushing's excavations in 1895-1896, described and illustrated with old photos, new photos, and water colors from expedition artist. Several atlatls and parts. One 32 cm x 2.2 cm, wood, central finger hole in handle, hook is tail of carved rabbit, handle turns down in carved volute like violin. At least three others with double finger holes, handles flared scoop shape. [Not adequately described, old photos not great either] See Cushing 1897.
Gould, Richard A.
1970 Spears and Spear-Throwers of the Western Desert Aborigines of Australia. American Museum Novitates No. 2403, American Museum of Natural History, New York. (Quotes and abstracts reprinted in The Cast Spring 2001:8-13.)
Dish-shaped slab mulga [an Acacia] wood, with resin lump hafting flake at handle, mulga male hook at distal end. Av. 30" long, 2.5-5" wide, av. 14 oz. [“woomera” type]
Boys learn to make by imitation starting very young, play non-competitive target games, at 10-12 fathers make good small set, by 14-16 circumcised, make own real set, but no formal instruction ever. All men make own sets, but some considered more skillful. Sharing common among kin.
Long composite or one-piece throwing spears of wood, with wood point and barb, av. 117 inches long, av. weight 18 oz [297 cm, 560 grams, long and enormously heavy by our standards], take 4-5 hrs work, straighten by heating and bending. Manufacture of spear and thrower with stone tools briefly described.
Men consistently hit 2x2' target at 110-130 feet [34-40 m, pretty good shooting with heavy spear], normal hunting distance some less, in 1966-67 majority of some groups used spear to hunt, and fight quarrels, trying to spear others' thigh. Use in social events to signify peace or hostility.
Functions beyond spearthrowing: 1. friction saw for firemaking 2. mixing tray, 3. work wood with adze flake in handle, 4. percussion music, 5. scraping/digging, 6. spirals, zig-zags etc designs = mnemonic map with sacred designs representing landscape features - so only men make or use decorated throwers or understand designs.
Individual variations in throwing style. Extra hook carried in septum of nose. Spinifex resin glue-making described.
Gould, Richard A.
1980 Living Archaeology. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Briefly same info as in Gould 1970. Also: spear thrower replaced every 2 years or so, spears dry out, replaced about every 3 weeks. 1 adze flake lasts for final shaping of one spear thrower, or 2 spear shafts, plus other tasks, so man averages 23 adze flakes per year. Not usually used for butchering etc.
Gould, Russell T.
1987 A Possible Atlatl Weight from Northwestern Owyhee County, Idaho. Idaho Archaeologist 10(1):13-15.
Isolated survey find, oblong boat shape with tapered ends.
1979 The Spear-Thrower from 15,000 Years Ago to the Present. Pacific Coast Archaeological Society Quarterly 15(1):1-17.
Nice summary, nothing new, emphasis on rock art, California and W US, several drawings, summarizes ethnographic evidence.
Campbell experiments with Basketmaker replica: 200', accurate 30-50', weights give more power at close range, don't help distance.
Grosscup, G. L.
1960 The Culture History of Lovelock Cave, Nevada. University of California Archaeological Survey Reports No. 52. Berkeley.
Considers Great Basin atlatls like Lovelock to be “more like Eskimo atlatls than those of the Basket Makers.” [Wrong]
Hall, Robert L.
1997 An Archaeology of the Soul: North American Indian Belief and Ritual. University of Illinois Press, Urbana. (Chapter 14: Atlatls, Courting Flutes, and Calumets, pp. 109-123).
Atlatls are multifunctional tools with symbolism. Occur in child and female burials at Indian Knoll, so not just male hunt gear. Symbolism survived in other artifacts when atlatls no longer used.
Atlatl form mimicked in Mississipian maces. Mace form survived as tatooed marks of honor on Ponca girls [but Ponca call the marks "children"] symbolizing membership in society honoring night and female principle, thus atlatl = symbol of earth and path of sun.
Mexican glyph "ollin" (Earth, Earthquake, Movement) = atlatl handle with two loops, = bisected circle motif in Hopewell.
Birdstones as atlatl handles - some with 4 feet, originally Mesoamerican bird-crocodile as seen on atlatl handle from Cocle, Panama, = Earth (like turtle in N. Am.). Also similar to the movable block on courting flutes - which are symbolic atlatls - e.g. ceramic flute in form of atlatl from Vera Cruz. N. Am. flutes also associated with war bundles, call to war.
Pipes also associated with war, and with birth/adoption, and with maleness. Tubular pipes could be held in hole in grip of atlatl, and some S. Am. cigar holders appear to retain atlatl form. Tube pipe in atlatl = model for platform pipe and flat stem of calumet pipe, some of which have bowls shaped like mace or the loops of atlatl grip - flute which passes air through stem is link, and has similar geographical distribution as calumet. Maya God K a related symbol.
[Interesting ideas, lots of possible connections, but ultimately not convincing - it is easy to connect vague symbolisms using major cultural themes and artifacts of superficially similar form. Some contradictions (e.g. atlatl = female, then later atlatl = pipe = cigar = penis), and actual evidence is pretty thin. See Whittaker 1998 for critique.]
2001 Sharing the Load: Gender and Task Division at the Windover Site. In Gender and the Archaeology of Death, B. Arnold and N. L. Wicker eds., pp. 119-135. Altamira Press, Walnut Creek, CA.
Florida mortuary pond, Archaic, dates 8120-6990 BP. Good organic preservation, 145 burials. Hunting related artifacts include atlatl cup/hooks, dart shaft, weights, points of antler and stone, all conclusively associated more with males than females and adults more than juveniles. However, of 15 individuals with hunting artifacts, two females had antler points.
Harrington, Mark R.
1924 The Ozark Bluff-Dwellers. American Anthropologist n.s. 26(1):1-21.
Dry shelter excavations in Arkansas. Preserved organics include atlatl and foreshafts. Two cultures recognized: “Bluff-Dweller” and “top-layer culture”. For earlier, emphasizes hunting – lots of faunal bone, heavy flint points “too large for arrows” wooden foreshafts, cane spear shafts, and a wooden atlatl. Possible crude arrows also in Bluff-Dweller levels. Atlatl: 1 complete, several broken examples. Made of wood, 19” long, projection at one end for spear and transverse peg at handle for grasping. Comparable to an Aztec type. [Small photo shows rough looking stick with transverse peg high where forefinger and thumb might grasp it. Shaft also appears to have finger notches at that point. Hook might be integral, but can’t see it.] Foreshafts about 8” long, some ornamented with incised lines, both binding and mastic used, tapered to fit shaft. Points usually “diamond shape” or side-notched or stemmed.
Associated culture described at length, including: Oval biface found hafted as axe. Numerous corn cobs, also beans in bags, and squash, and sunflower, and gourds, as well as unidentified seeds. Hafted mussel shell hoe. Storage pits for corn. Lots of nets and baskets. “Bushels” of acorns, walnuts, hickory, hazelnuts. Deer skin robes, feather blankets [like SW], breechcloth, moccasins. Sees similarity to Southwestern prehistoric cultures, and atlatl suggests equal antiquity.
Harrington, Mark R.
1959 A Two-Purpose Atlatl. The Masterkey 33(2):60
[Photo shows basketmaker SW type atlatl with finger loops] found in shelter, Winnemucca Lake, NV. Handle is long and narrow and has an antler attached for chipping, also photographed. [Too short, no further info, and I can’t find a better source]
1988 Aztec Warfare: Imperial Expansion and Political Control. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman.
Compiled from various sources. Atlatl predates Aztecs, although some myth claims they invented it, or credits god Opochtli. Surviving examples often ornate, perhaps for ceremonial occasions, ca. 2 feet long with hook and groove. Grips with loops, holes, or pegs. [Poor photo shows elaborate atlatl with apparently simple grip.] Darts made of oak and fletched, a variety of points used. Shown in art carried in hand, not quiver. Spanish sources say could penetrate armour. Suggests range over 55 meters, 60% more thrust than unaided spear [but all this is from old experiments]. Bows and slings also used in warfare.
Macuahuitl (obsidian edged wooden sword) also described, none survive, but 19th C illustration of one in Madrid armory does, and lots of contemporary illustrations.
Atlatl probably used as armies closed for hand to hand combat, after bow and sling barrage.
1979 Palaeolithic Reflections: Lithic Technology and Ethnographic Excavation Among Australian Aborigines. Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, Canberra and Humanities Press Inc, New Jersey.
Very detailed description of stone tools and use experiments conducted with aboriginal men and women in Australia. Includes some information on manufacture of woomera type “meru” spear throwers (scoop shape with adze stone hafted in handle) and “crude” spears. [Focus is on hyper-detailed descriptions of use of simple stone tools and their manufacture and wear, useful for lithic studies, not very useful for atlatl interests. Most informants had not actually used stone tools since the 1940s, and were not all competent. No illustrations of finished spear throwers, so hard to judge how well they did.]
1994 Tuning Weights. The Atlatl 7(3):1-4.
Weights "tune" atlatl for proper flex of atlatl and dart by adjusting speed/force of throw and flex, which he explains in terms of "archer's paradox". [Interesting ideas, but I still don’t think atlatl flex is very important or needs tuning to dart].
Heizer, Robert F.
1938 A Complete Atlatl Dart from Pershing County, Nevada. New Mexico Anthropologist 2(4/5): 68-71.
From guano mining in a cave near Lovelock Cave [Leonard Rockshelter]. Length 129.5 cm, three sections. Butt: cane, 38 cm, sinew wrapped at both ends, tangential eagle feather fletching with tufts of bluebird feathers, proximal end left open to engage atlatl. Central section: cane, 45 cm long, no decoration. Foreshaft: greasewood, 57 cm long (of which 10.5 cm inside cane of central section), inserted end long cylindrical taper, point damaged but no stone point was used. [By modern standards this dart is both very short (129.5 cm = 4’ 6”) and very light (38 grams, Heizer 1951). Wish he gave balance point info.]
Heizer, Robert F.
1938 An Inquiry into the Status of the Santa Barbara Spear-Thrower. American Antiquity 4(2): 137-141.
Collected 1793, Santa Barbara, Chumash area, by G.G. Hewett of ship “Discovery.”
Short (5 1/8") [how would it work? Or is is symbolic only?] board type with groove, raised bone hook, symmetrical 2 finger holes.
No precedents in area, probably results from 250 yrs of Spanish contact and colonization by Mexican Indians.
Heizer, Robert F.
1942 Ancient Grooved Clubs and Modern Rabbit Sticks. American Antiquity 8(1):41-56.
SW prehistoric grooved clubs – are they the same as historic SW rabbit sticks? Basketmaker - long, flat, S-curved, 3-4 grooves. Guernsey and Kidder 1921 suggest association with atlatl as warding sticks, and note similar in hands of Maya/Toltec carvings. Now clubs seem wider distributed in the west, not all with associated atlatl, some with bow. Roberts 1929 thinks TX specimens fighting or throwing clubs. Heizer thinks “specialized adjunct to hunting, first with atlatl, later bow” to dispatch wounded game. Archaeological and ethnographic information summarized (many finds, ethnographic from all over west including Hopi and CA). Should be a historical connection, perhaps from war to later hunting. [I find it hard to picture fighting with atlatl in one hand, while warding off darts with the other hand that has to hold the club and extra darts – a fighting or throwing club seems more likely].
Heizer, Robert F.
1945 Introduced Spearthrowers (Atlatls) in California. The Masterkey 19:109-112.
Three separate historic introductions of atlatl: 1. Santa Barbara [short little thing], collected 1792, is “poor copy of Tarascan type”, introduced through Spanish colonial settlement. 2. Two Alaskan spear throwers, collected late 1800s, Chumash area, introduced by Aleut and Koniag hunters employed by Russian sea-otter hunting expeditions. 3. Susanville basketmaker type [see Fenenga and Heizer 1941] turns out to have belonged to a local Indian whose son-in-law learned how to make and use atlatls from M.R. Harrington. So California had prehistoric atlatls, but there is no evidence of survival into historic times.
Heizer, Robert F.
1951 Preliminary Report on the Leonard Rockshelter Site, Pershing County, Nevada. American Antiquity 17(2):89-98.
Work in 1949 at site where atlatl dart found 1936, in deep bat guano layer. C14 dates on guano average 8660+300, greasewood atlatl shaft fragment 7038+350 B.P., relatively humid Anathermal period of the Postglacial. Dart shaft complete, 3 sections, 130 cm long, cane shaft, long greaswood foreshaft with simple tip, 38.5 grams, two tangential feathers, red painted spiral decoration. Long chronological discussion.
Helmick, Troy C.
1996 Atlatl Weights Found in Montana: An Atlatlist's Perspective. Archaeology in Montana 37(2):67-78. Reprinted Indian Artifact Magazine 7(3):16-19 (Aug 1998). Reprinted The Atlatl 14(3):1-6 (July 2001).
Nine specimens described + mapped, well illustrated, variety of materials and sizes
mostly elongate with central groove for lashing. Lists functional theories [but reaches no conclusion].
1981 Hunters of the Polar North: The Eskimos. Time-Life Books, Amsterdam.
Nice photos and essays on W. Greenland Eskimo. Two photos of throwing harpoon with "throwing stick" from a kayak while hunting narwhal.
Hester, Thomas R.
1974 Supplementary Notes on A Great Basin Atlatl. In Great Basin Atlatl Studies, RF Heizer, ed., pp 29‑32. Ramona: Ballena Press
Winnemucca Lake specimen.
Basketmaker style handle with pair of leather finger loops, but with antler flaker on proximal end, odd keeled hook which may be incomplete, 56 cm long, max W 2.5 cm, max T 1.25 cm, couldn’t weigh.
Hester, Thomas R.
1974 Archaeological Materials from Site NV‑WA‑197, Western Nevada: Atlatl and Animal Skin Ponches. Contributions of the University of California Archaeological Research Facility 21:1‑43. Berkeley: University of California
Analysis of looted material from dry cave. Unusual atlatl >6000BC, 2 skin pouches w/stone tools ‑ hafted bifaces used as fish knives plus ? [A. Romano points out more likely atlatl dart foreshafts, possibly used in fishing, with a feathered line found with them attached as float.]
>100 pts and preforms of Eastgate type (shows type’s reality), probably by one individual, with compound short antler pressure‑flaker.
Hester, Thomas R, and M.P. Mildner
1974 An Atlatl from Council Hall Cave, Nevada. In Great Basin Atlatl Studies, R.F. Heizer, ed., pp 33‑36. Ramona: Ballena Press.
From Harrington’s excavations, 1920s.
Specimen described – basic SW form: a straight flat stick with groove and integral hook, finger notches but no surviving loops, 52.7 cm long, 1.9 cm wide, no thickness measured.
1948 The Atlatl, or Throwing Stick, A Recent Study of Atlatls in Use with Darts of Various Sizes. Tennessee Archaeologist 4:37‑44.
Importance of different grips. Weights have no value.
Small darts better ‑ up to 60 yards. Rigid atlatl gives longer throws than flexible.
Max throw 242 feet.
1949 A Time Study in Making an Atlatl with Primitive Flint Tools. Tennessee Archaeologist 5(1):12.
Took him two hours and 58 minutes.
Hobbs, Horace P.
1963 The Mystery of the Bannerstones and a Possible Solution. Archaeological Society of Virginia Quarterly Bulletin 18:2-7.
Bannerstones, especially butterfly and related forms, could have been mounted to slide on a central rod between two side rods on a “super atlatl.” This explains fragility, small holes, and symmetry. Tested with concrete bannerstone and 5.5’ spear [details lacking] against hand throwing and “simple” atlatl. Either atlatl doubled distance thrown by hand; super atlatl did better, up to about 55 yards. Bannerstone adds thrust, and also “counteracts forward weight of spear, keeping it in balance until thrown.” Super atlatl allows stone position to be adjusted according to weight of spear.
[Creative idea, but excessively complicated and implausible.]
Holt, C. Brian
1992 A Brief Study on Atlatl Spur Angles. The Atlatl 5(2): 3-4.
Lower angle spur (less elevated) required flatter throw, less follow through, flatter trajectory, more force.
1988 Art and Culture Change at the Tlingit-Eskimo Border. In Crossroads of Continents: Cultures of Siberia and Alaska, edited by William W. Fitzhugh and Aron Crowell, pp. 281-294. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC.
Tlingit, northernmost NW Coast culture, in contact with Eskimo Chugach and Koniag, show many Eskimo features, including throwing boards. Exchange increased after Russians brought Aleut and Eskimo fur hunters. Sea-otter harpoon/arrow is most obvious borrowing – form and decoration, but used exclusively with bow instead of atlatl. But a dozen Tlingit throwing boards are known, with NW Coast decoration. Many appear old and worn, functional but not efficient – poor handle, short length between forefinger hole and hook (about 1/2 total length). Shamanic decoration suggests purely ritual use. [Figure contrasts Eskimo and Tlingit grips, shows 19th C Tlingit throwing board, nicely carved but clumsy looking. Can’t see upper face with hook.]
1998 Chlorite Pick Bannerstones. Prehistoric Antiquities Quarterly18(3):70-72.
Pick or wing shaped with hole for wood shaft. Considers Indian Knoll type atlatls too weak for practical use. [They aren’t – I’ve made one.]
Howard, Calvin D.
1974 The Atlatl: Function and Performance. American Antiquity 39(1):102‑104.
Not catapult, flipping device, or lever arm etc. Spur and handle remain
level throughout throw ‑ greater thrust because spur remains in contact w/spear
longer than hand would. [Unusual theory, and wrong – in a good throw atlatls do not remain level in use, the lever action is what does the work - was his hook wrong?]
Weights don't help. Fairly accurate. Adds 60% distance over same spear hand thrown [a considerable underestimate].
Howard, Calvin D.
1976 Atlatl function: A Reply to Butler. Plains Anthropologist 21 (74):313‑314.
Counters Butler 1975. Spur would break off under stresses of a throw where the dart pivoted 90 degrees on it.
2002 How Hard Does It Hit? The Atlatl 15(4):16-18.
Energy calculations for atlatl dart compared to other projectiles. Force (momentum) reflects how hard it hits target (F = Mass x Acceleration). Kinetic Energy (stored energy in projectile) determines amount of damage to target (KE = 1/2 Mass x Velocity squared). Atlatl darts have more impact force and momentum than most bullets (because more mass) but much less kinetic energy (because slow). “Weaker than modern firearms, but still capable of bringing down largest game.” They rely on penetration rather than shock to damage target. [Very interesting calculations. Unfortunately he uses US measurements - who ever heard of “slugs” of mass! And no doubt some readers will interpret this as “atlatl more powerful than gun.”]
Hughes, Susan S.
1998 Getting to the Point: Evolutionary Change in Prehistoric Weaponry. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 5(4):345-408.
[Mixed paper.] Begins with long discussion of engineering characteristics of thrusting spears, fletched and unfletched darts, and arrows. Evaluates particularly mass, width, and cross-sectional area as important attributes of points. Applies expectations to interpret sequence of points from Mummy Cave, Wyoming. Concludes small late points indicate rapid and complete replacement of atlatl by bow and arrow 1500-1300 BP, spearthrower dominated assemblage from beginning as early as 9200 BP to 1500 BP, and thrusting spears (very large points) were in use as supplement throughout. Before 7970 BP, points large but variable, probably because used to balance unfletched darts; after fletching, less variable, somewhat lighter. [Her conclusions are plausible and probably right, but the engineering section, although has some good ideas and info, is very theoretical, not based on practical experience, and has a lot of weak reasoning and inadequate data. Her ideas about the advantages of different weapons in particular are weakly supported and overgeneralized.]
1992 Reconstructing a Generic Basketmaker Atlatl. Bulletin of Primitive Technology. 1(4):57‑61.
Good information and illustrations of several Basketmaker (SW) atlatls, including good drawings of Broken Roof Cave, Lukachukai, White Dog Cave, Sand Dune Cave specimens, with table of dimensions and specifics.
Hurst, Winston B. and Christy G. Turner
1993 Rediscovering the "Great Discovery:" Wetherill's First Cave 7 and its Record of Basketmaker Violence. IN Anasazi Basketmaker: Papers from the 1990 Wetherill-Grand Gulch Symposium, V.M. Atkins ed, pp. 143-192. Salt Lake City: Bureau of Land Management Cultural Resource Series No. 24.
Site in Utah where Wetherill first recognized people earlier than pueblos.
About 90 burials, evidence of violence including atlatl dart points in bodies, clubbing, scalping, stabbing with stone knives and bone daggers.
Distinguishes knives (>9 cm, diagonal notches) from atlatl dart points (smaller, diagonal or horizontal notches). The point assemblage is comparable to other Basketmaker points, less so to Archaic (Elko) point series.
Hutchings, W. Karl and Lorenz W. Bruchert
1997 Spearthrower Performance: Ethnographic and Experimental Research. Antiquity 71(274): 890-897.
[Key article, good references]
Experimental focus has been on how spear thrower works - but performance capability is more interesting. Browne, Butler, Patterson threw incorrectly, thus failed to evaluate right.
More than 1/2 spear velocity comes from "rotational acceleration of wrist and forearm" [so does atlatl work by magnifying that?]. Velocity data should not be derived from distance throws - measure directly at launch and target by photo.
Dart variation affects performance more than atlatl.
Ethnog range of dart lengths is 1.2 m (Eskimo) to 3.4 m (Australia).
American West darts from caves consistently light (45-90 gm), short (116-160 cm).
Ethnog hunting range data poor, suggest accurate range 10-30 m.
Coleman's Georgia boar hunts - 51 hits, 58 misses, kills from 3-46 m, average 15 m.
Velocity measurements by others 20 to 40 m/sec.
Tested darts 82-545 gm at 15 m target distance. Velocity 28-64 m/sec, averages 33-47 m/sec, even heavy dart worked fine, 220 gm best matched to atlatl.
Would produce >350 Joules kinetic energy, = 4x arrow from modern bow.
Conclusions: 1) Need adequate skill to test. 2) Spearthrower not inaccurate or inefficient. 3) More powerful than generally realized - capable of more force than arrow, and when used at similar ranges, equivalent accuracy. 4) Replacement probably because bow easier to use.
Booklet, well illustrated in color, large number of prehistoric European bows and points, information on experimental manufacture. Short section on atlatl with photos of use [but showing bad form].
1978 Paleoepidemiology of degenerative joint disease. Medical College of Virginia Quarterly 14:45-56.
1999 Stories from the Skeleton: Behavioral Reconstruction in Human Osteology. Amsterdam: Gordon and Breach Science Publishers.
References and discussion of atlatl elbow. Discusses problems with interpreting osteoarthritis in terms of activities, doesn’t feel there is good evidence for atlatl use in archaeological skeletal arthritis.
Kellar, James H.
1955 The Atlatl in North America. Indiana Historical Society, Prehistory Research Series, Volume 3, Number 3: 280-352.
[Good summary of available reports, still useful. Focus on distribution. Experiment notably lacking.] “No objective analysis of the efficacy of a projectile thrown with the aid of the atlatl is extant.” Cites a few ethnographic observations, including Nelson 1899 to support accuracy. Distributional discussion, begins with Old World. Earliest from Magdalenian, bow appears to be Neolithic. Archaeology is lacking where there is known ethnographic atlatl use. Distinguishes eastern (tapered, more specialized handles, undecorated) and western (more rectangular, finger grooves, decorated in Greenland) Eskimo areas. Archaeological evidence back to Old Bering Sea culture, surveys other finds. [Illustrations throughout are too few, mostly line drawings, clear but lacking detail.] One Tlingit specimen, puzzling Santa Barbara (short) example. SW, including Oklahoma, atlatls are relatively homogeneous – grooved, loop handles, thin, weights Weights may be functional if not too close to the handle. Possible association with curved throwing stick. Great Basin atlatls differ. Gypsum Cave foreshafts associated with extinct fauna; Leonard Rock Shelter foreshaft C14 date 7038+350. History of interpretations of SE atlatl parts discussed, atlatl interpretation now considered conclusive. Six varieties of antler or bone hooks widely distributed: TX, OK, KY, TN, AL, GO, MS, IN, OH. Weights also, but antler handle confined to KY and IN. Suggestions of Hopewell atlatls by Moorehead. Cushing’s Key Marco atlatls and SE ethnohistory. For Mesoamerica, follows Nuttal, considers SW connection, diffused from N to S.
Probably once all over continent; evidence lacking. Early introduction, possibly associated with one or more of the older physical types, but could be single introduction followed by regional specialization. Atlatl persisted after bow, sometimes together, especially in marginal areas. Dating transition is difficult – maybe beginning of Christian Era in SW. Association recently between canoe hunting and atlatl (Eskimo and Mexico), and Eskimo bird darts and atlatl. Atlatl good for one hand use, and not damaged by moisture. Mesoamerican and S. Am. warfare used atlatls, perhaps for penetration against protective clothing, perhaps also ceremonial significance.
Kidder, Alfred Vincent and Samuel J. Guernsey
1919 Archeological Explorations in Northeastern Arizona. Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 65.
[Classic report on Anasazi Pueblo and Basketmaker cave sites.]
Atlatls: several fragments, 1 complete from BM cist with burial.
Described pages 178-183: flat board, distorted by earth pressure, missing loops, limestone weight (elbow shaped, close to grip, 1 oz), groove with flush hook "mixed" type, L 28", W 1 3/8" at distal end.
Describes grip and use.
Weights might balance, add power, or be ceremonial.
Darts: all broken, butts sinew-wrapped, fletched, foreshafts into socket.
Kinsella, Larry and David Klostermeier
1993 Indian Knoll Atlatls. Video, privately distributed, L. Kinsella,
645 Pleasant Ridge, Fairview Heights, Illinois, 62208
Detailed video documentation of all atlatl parts from Indian knoll – antler tine hooks, antler beam grips, stone and composite shell tubular weights.
1951 Fire Hunter. Scholastic Book Services, New York.
In Pleistocene America, Hawk, the tribes spear maker and Willow, an injured young woman are cast out of their tribe and survive encounters with wolves, sabretooths, and hostile tribes by wit and courage. In the course of their adventures they invent in rapid succession the spear thrower, fletching, bows and arrows, arrow poison, and domestic dogs. The David Drake (1990) re-issue adds chapters on the disasters that befall the tribe that kicked them out. [This is a classic boy’s story that inspired me when I was a kid. The conception of prehistoric society is pretty 1950s tooth and claw stuff, and Kjelgaard didn’t know a lot about prehistoric technology either. He thinks the flexing power of wood is what makes the atlatl work, which in turn leads to the invention of the bow. Fun, but not to take seriously.]
2002 Neanderthals Used Both Hands to Kill. New Scientist 11/23/02 online www.newscientist.com
Reports Churchill’s work, Neanderthal right arms stronger, bone denser, experiments confirm that thrusting puts much more force on dominant arm, so don’t need throwing to explain. [But will occasional forceful use really create such differences, aside from the fact that N’s used their arms for other things too. All he’s shown is that most N’s were right handed.]
Knapp, Wyatt, and Lou Becker
2000 The Atlatl and Dart Workbook. Onagocag Publishing Co., Allendale.
Detailed instructions on making atlatls and darts, and general information on throwing, contests, hunting, and other stuff. [Easy to read, generally good information. The atlatls are all rather modernized, but despite this, most are unnecessarily complicated for the beginner. Instructions are well illustrated. Suggests (oddly) that atlatl weight transfers its momentum to dart. Includes ISAC rules, list of sources (but lacking many important ones).]
1993 Splits and Wedges: The Techniques and Technology of Early Aurignacian Antler Working. In Before Lascaux: The Complex Record of the Early Upper Paleolithic. H. Knecht, A. Pike‑Tay, R. White eds, pp 137‑162. Boca Raton: CRC Press
Good description of Aurignacian technology ‑ especially hafting split base points by wedging. [Not directly atlatl related. Combines archaeological , experimental, and use‑wear approaches very effectively.]
1997 The History and Development of Projectile Technology Research. In Projectile Technology, H. Knecht ed., pp. 3-36. Plenum, New York.
Good summary, excellent references, especially for European sources. Discusses atlatls: little ethnographic information available, lots of experiments, gives summary of weight hypotheses. Cites earliest spear thrower date: 17,470+250 on an antler hook from the Solutrean (Upper Paleolithic) of Combe Sauniere, France.
Knoblock, Byron W.
1939 Bannerstones of the North American Indian. Published by the author, LaGrange, Ill. Reprinted 1965? Quincy, Ill.
Huge 596 pp, mostly plates, a few color.
Primarily typology + illustrations, of perforated bannerstones only.
Discusses manufacture, good illustrations of unfinished specimens, some experiments in drilling.
Prefers ceremonial or ornamental use theory, tribal symbols, but includes some others, e.g. section on Indian Knoll and Moore's theory that antler hooks were netting needles, bannerstones were mesh spacers, which he likes. Also letter from Webb arguing for atlatl part theory, which he questions, and says even if some were on atlatls, ceremonial importance was foremost.
2000 Activity-related Skeletal Change. In V. Fioratto, A. Boylston, and C. Knusel, eds. Blood Red Roses: The Archaeology of a Mass Grave from the Battle of Towton AD 1461. Oxford, Oxbow Books., pp 103-118.
Asymmetry in arms of 14 men show right humerus larger proximal, left humerus larger distal. This may represent habitual archery – left elbow, right shoulder get most strain. Also one had healed avulsion fracture where epiphysis of left distal humerus (elbow) had separated at growth plate in adolescence.
1973 The Sling as a Weapon. Scientific American 229(4):34-42.
Historical records from classical times, archaeology (stone, lead and clay shot) and iconography. Extreme accuracy possible, range 200-400 m, so equal or surpassing bows. Ammunition 13-450gm, mostly 20-50 gm [seems remarkably light and small]. Sling and bow were apparently mutually exclusive and used at same time by different “culture spheres” between 8000-4000 BC in Near East [I’m not convinced, not enough evidence given.] [Interesting, but not much practical experience or experiment.]
2002 Neanderthal Anatomy and the Use of Spears. Evolutionary Anthropology 11:183-184.
African ethnographic spears used in two ways: short spear for overhand shoulder-high stab, longer for javelin-like throw. Neanderthals’ “sturdy build” perhaps an adaptation not just to cold but to “hunting large mammals with stabbing spears in dense bush and forest.” [see Churchill 2002]
2000 Atlatl Use In the Siege of Tenochtitlan. Indian Artifact Magazine 19(3):31, 69.
[Brief info from Maudslay’s version of Castillo].
Koup, William S.
2002 Bannerstones…What Are They? Prehistoric American 36(2):3-5.
Short review of main theories, somewhat critical of Webb, but concludes probably atlatl weights, with special signficance, and some “ceremonial” forms.
1905 Sling Contrivances for Projectile Weapons. Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution, 1904: 619-638.
"Spear slings" [he dislikes "throwing stick" and does not use "atlatl"].
Works by "lengthens the arm and serves as a lever to thrust spear forward after it has flown beyond the reach of the hand." "same motion as in ordinary spear throwing" [so he expects a level motion as Howard 1974, which is not correct].
Defines nock types: male = hook on atlatl for hollow spear butt.
Female = groove on atlatl, tapered end or hook on spear.
Mixed = hook at end of groove, hollow spear butt. [This is a misnomer – the hook is the effective part, so it really should be “male” with added groove.]
Efficiency (from ethnographic reports) "3-4 times as far as with bare hands" = 200-300 feet, Australians said to reach 150 yards, accurate to 40 paces.
Different types described by area: Australia, New Guinea, Micronesia and Melanesia; North circumpolar region, especially Eskimo and Aleut; Central and S. America, including American west briefly mentioned.
Small but clear line drawings of many types.
Projectile [spear] slings and loops briefly discussed.
Kricun, Morrie E.
1994 Paleoradiology of the Prehistoric Australian Aborigines. American Journal of Roentgenology 163:241-247.
Spear thrower use mentioned as possible cause of elbow arthitis. [But no discussion, details, or even info on number of specimens examined – useless.]
Krieger, Alex D.
1956 Historic Survival of the Atlatl in the Lower Mississippi Region. Bulletin of the Texas Archeological Society. 27:195‑207.
Texas domesticated hog skull with large point, Spanish accounts of atlatl in Mississippi Delta.
Kwas, Mary L.
1981 Bannerstones as Chronological Markers in the Southeastern United States. Tennessee Anthropologist 6(2):144-171.
Uses modification of Knoblock’s typology, excavated examples to establish basic chronology from Middle Archaic (6000-5000 BC) appearance to shift to 2-hole gorgets in Late Archaic (around 1200 BC). Generalized trend: begins with crescent forms (crescent, shuttle, reel, double-edge, double bit axe, knobbed lunate) in early Middle Archaic, then from 4000-3000 BC (late Middle Archaic) replaced by tubular, geniculate, humped, and ovoid forms which last until ca 2000. Meanwhile, hourglass and saddle-face forms (as at Indian Knoll) appear about the same time, and apparently last a bit longer. Finally the bottle and butterfly forms begin ca 2000 in the Late Archaic, and are ending sometime after 1000, with a shift to the 2-hole gorget around 1200 and a later shift to boatstones around 600-500 BC. Tables list all specific finds from sites with association info.
Kwas, Mary L.
1982 Bannerstones: A Historical Overview. Journal of Alabama Archaeology 28(2): 155-178.
Name “bannerstone” assumed ritual or social function. Moorehead 1917 first systematic classification: lunate, bilunate, bipennate, geniculate. Knoblock 1939 major work, base for typology although his evolutionary scheme has no empirical support. Researchers tend to ignore bannerstones or inadequately describe.
Functional theories: 1) Ceremonial staff. NC find of 3 mounted on stone shafts a foot long (Baer 1921), and wear on only part of hole (Knoblock 1939), also fancy material, fragility. Carlson Annis find strung with beads around neck of burial.
2) Net spacers. Moore (1916) at Indian Knoll, association with net needles (hooks).
3) Atlatl weights. Webb, from finds at Indian Knoll and elsewhere, analogous to Basketmaker specimens (Kidder and Guersey 1919). Burial alignments consistent with SW examples – weight about 1/3 to 1/2 distance from hook. Problem with atlatl theory – hooks and bannerstones not always together, and found with female burials. Uses Indian Knoll data to demonstrate this. Also often not found with points.
Discusses experiments, which provide variable and sometimes conflicting results, partly because not systematic enough.
Precourt (1973) and Winters (1968) argue that could be both functional atlatl weights and social or status markers. Research should not assume the atlatl weight function is proven.
[Good literature review and critique up to its time. Many of the objections to atlatl weight interpretation are now less supportable, and most would now agree that symbolic use as well as hunting uses are likely.]
Laird, Roderick D.
1999 Experiments Confirm Likely Usage of Murray Springs Bone Tool. The Mammoth Trumpet 14(2):18-20.
Shaft wrench, not spinning tool as argued by Heite (MT 13(3)). Works well in pairs with heated wood shaft, has notches at ends of opening, necessary to keep from cracking shaft or letting it roll.
Lansac, Jean Pierre
2001 Discussion d’un cadre chronologique pour l’utilization du propulseur et de l’arc. Unpublished MA thesis, University of Bordeaux. Obtained on web http://perso.wanadoo.fr/archeries/MEMOIRE.htm, 8/20/01
[“On a chronological framework for the use of the spearthrower and the bow.” In French] Hunting weapons (spears) are known from at least Middle Paleolithic times, and common opinion is that spearthrowers begin at least by Solutrean, but bow not until Mesolithic. Two methods of evaluating this chronology: “direct” evidence of the weapons themselves, and “indirect” evidence of the projectile points compared to ethnographic and experimental information. Describes basic use, and male, female, and “androgenous” hook types.
First French Upper Paleolithic spearthrower finds by Lartet and Christy at Laugerie-Basse in 1862, recognized by analogy to Australian woomera by Mortillet 1891. Finds now dated from late Solutrean (17,500 BP) to late Magdalenian (12,500 BP). First European bow finds from Swiss lake dwellings [Neolithic and Bronze Age] in 19th century. Now earliest bows from Mesolithic sites like Stellmoor (Germany, ca 11,000 BP) and Holmegaard (Denmark). Earliest arrows about same date, from Lila Loshult (Sweden) and Stellmoor.
Points are more difficult to deal with. Solutrean shouldered points have been shown to work well with spearthrowers, which are found in contemporary sites. Others, like Gravette points [small straight points made on retouched blades], were probably projectile tips, but we don’t know whether for bow or atlatl. Experiments show they work with either. Some interpret as change to light point for arrow, but no direct evidence. Ethnographic Eskimo use both bow and atlatl for different purposes – why not an archaeological transition period in Upper Paleolithic? Evidence: Most known ancient bows already sophisticated, thus long ancestry likely. Magdalenian spearthrowers are close in date to Azilian microlithic industry – small stone tools suggesting bows. Bone tools become scarce, but atlatls could be all wood and not preserved.
[Brief, few details, but useful compilation of dates, bibliography].
Laughlin, William S.
1980 Aleuts: Survivors of the Bering Land Bridge. Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, New York.
Chapter on hunting: “Kayak hunting on the open sea is the most skilled and demanding form of hunting practiced by human beings.” High reward, high risk. Long section on child training, which includes unusually specific exercises for particular skills, including for throwing harpoon with throwing board from kayak (p. 28), for which need to “stretch the ligaments and tendons of the knee, back, and shoulder early in life.” Uncle, father, or grandfather pulls arm of boy “straight over the shoulder and back behind the head…to make the shoulder joint supple and permit greater excursion from behind with a straight arm, a valuable ability for casting harpoons with the throwing board.” Also press down knees to lengthen hamstring muscles and small of back to allow you to sit comfortably in kayak.
(p 30) Throwing boards were personal possessions, tailored to size of owner. Children practiced on land before kayak hunting. (p 32) Maximum effective range for light harpoon (4 foot length, 1.2 m) thrown with throwing board is 120 feet (36.3 m).
(p 39) Throwing board illustrated. Wooden, wide board with groove and ivory hook, hole for index finger, shaped on underside for hand grip. Looks short. “Black paint on back represented fur of the sea otter, and red paint on belly represented blood. The various parts had anatomical names.” Used with four foot harpoons, often for sea otter, but also against whale. “The spear was cast with a throwing board, assuring deep penetration.” Tips “poisoned” but ingredients magical rather than effective.
Throwing board length was elbow to end of middle finger (p 148). Harpoon heads were barbed rather than toggling (p 84). Used bow drills for fire and drilling until Russians introduced pump drill (P 86).
1991 Weapon Found at Marcos Island Combined Atlatl and Sabre. The Atlatl 4(1): 5-6
Excerpts from Cushing 1896 - apparent atlatl with bottom edge set with shark teeth.
Lorentzen, Leon H.
1993 From Atlatl to Bow: The Impact of Improved Weapons on Wildlife in the Grasshopper Region. MA Thesis, University of Arizona.
Small pueblos in central AZ, built 1260-1270s, abandoned and burned 1290s. Grasshopper Springs site dominated by larger corner notched points, neighboring Chodistaas site has more smaller triangular notched + unnotched points. Size differences, especially stem thickness and width, compared to surviving + ethnographic hafted points, suggest corner notched = dart, triangular = arrow. Shaft straighteners (work for reed arrows) 4 on floor at Chodistaas, 2 in fill (later reuse) at Grasshopper Springs. So transition to bow and arrow was late 1200s in this region.
After 1300 bow and arrow was improved by matching arrow sets - find perforated antler = arrow gauges [but why then is there so much diversity in size and form of points at Grasshopper 1300-1400?]. Population increase and better hunting technology resulted in destruction of game - some evidence in faunal remains and human skeleton isotope studies.
[Good try but late retention of atlatls is just not convincing: he shows definite differences in point assemblages, but points are still not direct atlatl evidence, larger points may be arrows too, why would some sites in central AZ still use atlatl long after all others there and in rest of SW had changed, why are there no late cave finds of atlatls anywhere in SW?]
Loud, Llewellyn, and Mark R. Harrington
1929 Lovelock Cave. University of California, Berkeley. (republished 1991, Falcon Hill Press, Sparks, NV).
Pp. 99-100 spear thrower, notches for grip, no loops, groove but hook missing, 45 cm long, illustration of model of original which is lost. Also found were cane shaft fragments, and foreshafts, some bunts, some with stone points.
Lutz, David L.
2000 The Archaic Bannerstone: Its Chronological History and Purpose from 6000 B.C. to 1000 B.C. David L. Lutz, privately published.
A massive and finely illustrated attempt to analyze chronological change in bannerstone styles. Examines associations of different bannerstone forms with projectile point types, C14 dates from excavations, and other chronological evidence, using museum collections, published excavation data, and non-archaeological collections. Reviews theories of function and history of study. Bannerstones are originally atlatl weights, but the ritual or social use is emphasized. [Usual weak arguments against atlatl function. I don’t understand why people want to think that stones used as atlatl weights would not have ritual or social importance.] Recognizes a “3-Bannerstone Cache” trait in Middle and Late Archaic. Such finds often have stones of different form together, and different contemporary forms represent clan or tribal symbols. [Not a bad idea, although a bit simplistic. See Sassaman 1988.] Suggests antler atlatl hook chronology: short Eva type 4500 BC, longer Black Earth type with shaped hook end 3800 B.C., long simpler tine hook Indian Knoll type 3000 B.C., Terminal Archaic type with slotted attachment to atlatl 2200-1200 B.C. The bannerstone chronology is too complex to summarize here. [Useful study, and just what needed to be done, but some problems. Introductory sections are badly organized. Hard to extract the important chronology or check the reasoning. He should have given the gist in a chart or table. Non-professional collections are dangerous – fake artifacts and failures of documentation and finders’ memories. Some of the associations claimed are probably not good, as when he argues that bannerstones found together on a site surface are contemporary, but points from same site are older “found” points. Although the photos are excellent, only outline size is measured, not hole diameter or weight.]
Lyons, Richard B.
1999 The Spine Tester. The Atlatl 12(1):7-8.
Method of measuring spine, data from a number of atlatlists.
Lyons, Richard B.
2002 Atlatl Weights. The Atlatl 15(4):1-3.
Lutz book reorders bannerstone sequence. Webb had hook type going from long to short, so weight could be closer to end of atlatl. His final form bannerstones with hook are mistakes based on damaged specimens, but an atlatl with the weight out past the hook actually works well.
Madden, James W.
1991 The Art of Throwing Weapons. Paladin Press, Boulder.
Simplistic basics for knives, tomahawks, spears, etc, and atlatl. None with enough detail to be useful. [Has he ever really mastered atlatl? - uses bad motion, poor atlatl, and apparently rigid heavy spear. Not useful.]
Madsen, David B.
1992 An Atlatl From Snow Canyon State Park. Utah Archaeology 5(1):133-136.
In lava tube cave, probably associated with adult male skeleton, estimated date 1500-2500 BP.
Simple flat stick atlatl, 59 cm long, narrowed grip but no loops or weights, integral hook at end of groove - like Basketmaker but no evidence of loops or weights.
Marriner, Harry A.
2000 Estolicas of the Columbian Muiscas. The Atlatl 13(2):1-2.
Brief historical account, legends, encountered by Spanish. Hook at each end [not explained], stone hooks, and miniature gold offerings (illustrated) known.
Marriner, Harry A.
2001 Dart-thrower Use in Colombia and its Representation in Colombian Rock Art. The Atlatl 14(2):1-5.
Muisca culture (700-1600 AD) both atlatl (Sp.“estolica,” Muisca “Queskes”) and bow and arrow represented on gold tunjo figures, as gold miniature offerings, and buried with mummies. Straight rod “Andean type” atlatl with hook and hook-like handle carved of stone or shell, 42-60 cm long, used with spear with barbed wooden points. Other estolica styles discussed. In rock art in Chiribiquete National Park.
[Most photos are badly computer reproduced and useless].
Martin, George C.
1933 Archaeological Exploration of the Shumla Caves. Southwest Texas Archaeological Society Bulletin 3 (Big Bend Basket Maker Papers No. 3). Witte Memorial Museum, San Antonio, Texas.
Dry caves [apparently primitive excavation methods], with atlatl and related specimens pp. 24-25. Arrow shaft fragments “made for use with atlatl designed for throwing a light arrow” with deep flared nocks. Wooden arrow foreshafts 6-10” long, diameters 3/16” – 3/8”, some with notches for stone points. Wooden “atlatl javelin” foreshafts also found, one 7.5” long, 1/2” diam. with stone head cemented in with gum.
Distal end of atlatl, wood, flat, integral hook and groove. Bone or antler hook, shaped like end of flat atlatl with integral hook but no groove, hole for attaching, “a detachable device which would convert any stick of appropriate size into an atlatl.” Proximal end of atlatl, with two finger notches each side, heavy form for casting javelins. Proximal end of atlatl with single notch each side, light form for casting arrows. No apparent loops on either. [I don’t find his interpretation of flared arrow nocks as intended for use with atlatl very convincing, but the idea of light and heavy atlatls and projectiles is worth considering. No information on weights that would help evaluation is provided. Kellar (1955) points out that this is apparently the only place where SW forms overlap with SE antler hook forms.]
Five complete, fifteen fragments of grooved “rabbit stick” type clubs.
Mason, J. Alden
1928 Some Unusual Spear Throwers of Ancient America. The Museum Journal 19:290-324. University of Pennsylvania University Museum.
Older than bows, back to Paleolithic. Lengthens arm for greater speed and force. Requires only one hand so useful in boats or with shield.
Describes specimens at U. Penn Museum:
Thule Culture, Point Barrow, Alaska - coniferous drift wood, odd angular shape, with hand grip and hole for index finger, male hook of ivory inset into groove, rigid, no weights, 14.5 inches long, 2.75 wide.
Basket Makers of Utah - specimen from Chicago Exposition, probably collected by Wetherills in Grand Gulch - split sapling, .75-1 inch wide, 25 inches long, groove with integral "spur", handle with twin finger loops of rawhide, wrappings include carnivore tooth, cotton yarn, fur, feathers, and 4 beads revealed by x-ray, limonite nodule, flaked point bound to it.
- specimen from Hazzard Collection - handle only, simpler loops of hard material wrapped in leather.
- specimen from Lukachukai, Arizona - complete but lacking loops, largest and heaviest of all, 23.75 inches long, .25 thick, .875-1.25 wide, notched at grip, shallow groove but elevated male "spur."
Key Marco, Florida, Cushings excavations of 1896 - 2 complete, "slender and graceful" - two finger holes, 16-18 inches long, dark flexible wood, groove, short raised hook, flared handle end.
- single finger hole, hook carved in form of rabbit, handle end with volute knob, 19 inches long, springy hard wood.
Ethnographic Tarascan, Mexico, "of slight interest" one piece wood, plain undecorated, two finger holes.
Prehistoric coastal Peruvian graves, Nazca - 10 specimens: straight round stick with grip and hook bound on, 46-56 cm long, handles carved bone (owl, flute player etc).
Mason, Otis T.
1885 Throwing Sticks in the National Museum. Smithsonian Institution Annual Report for 1884, part 2. pp. 279-290, plates 1-16. Washington: Government Printing Office.
Eskimo spear throwers, substitute for bow because can launch harpoon from kayak.
Works by longer force application to spear, some leverage.
Discusses several Eskimo subtypes and geographic distribution, illustrates 22 specimens.
[Basic "Eskimo" type is flat board with carved handgrip often with pegs and/or finger hole, mixed hook and groove, no weights].
Mason, Otis T.
1893 Throwing Sticks [letter Sept 15] Science 22(554):152-153. Reprint also in The Cast, Spring 2001: 1.
[First notice of Basket Maker SW atlatls].
World Columbian Exposition, Colorado exhibit of Cliff Dwellers [Wetherill].
2 examples, describes, BM type, groove + hook, finger loops, attached bundle of stone point, mountain lion tooth, and hematite.
"First finding of atlatl figured in codices...connects Cliff Dwellers with the Mexican people."
Massey, Lee Gooding
1972 Tabla and Atlatl: Two Unusual Wooden Artifacts from Baja California. Pacific Coast Archaeological Society Quarterly 8(1):25-34.
Tabla is a ceremonial board.
Atlatls - two ethnographic accounts, but confusion about weapons and their dimensions. Several Baja specimens known. One collected by locals from shelter near Buena Vista: 81.5 cm long, regular 4 cm circumference, distal end wrapped in palm fiber, integral large blocky "male" hook, bark loop at grip [apparently only one], carved geometrical decoration. From a burial cave [apparently Massey 1957] with other fragments.
Massey, William C.
1957 The Dart-Thrower in Baja California. Davidson Journal of Anthropology 3(1):55-62.
Isolated populations retained old traits.
Four specimens found bundled in cave, Las Palmas culture.
Round wooden shafts, integral male hook, single bark finger loop [poor drawing, no further details].
Mentioned in 17th C Spanish accounts, but after 1720 no mention - disappeared?
Massey, William C.
1961 The Survival of the Dart‑Thrower on the Peninsula of Baja California SWJA 17(1):81‑93.
4 archaeological specimens, Spanish reports.
Massey, William C. and Carolyn M. Osborne
1961 A Burial Cave in Baja California: The Palmer Collection, 1887. University of California Anthropological Records 16(8). University of California, Berkely.
Associations with 7 burials included a cane dart shaft 92.5 cm [very short!] long, no foreshaft, with stingray spine point, and two compound pressure flakers, short wooden handles with lashed-on bone tips. Bull-roarer, pipe, feather cape suggest that one burial was a shaman. [No dates, precontact?]
1963 Experiments with the Spear Thrower. The New York State Archaeological Association Bulletin 29:1-13.
Experiments with distance as criterion.
Points of copper tube, 1/8 to 1 oz, darts lengths 2.5-5.5 ft, atlatls 12-30 inches long - 24" best.
Best distance (180-200' usual) with unfletched 36", 3/8" diam, wt 2.5 oz, pt 1 oz, balance ca. 31% from tip.
Fletched shaft allows use of lighter points, balance less important, reduced range.
Speculations on prehist point styles.
Bannerstones - pipe of different weights at different places on atlatls. Best was moderate weight, ca. 5 oz, close to handle, which increases distance of throw 15-25%
[Interesting but subjective, experiments and results not given in enough detail to see if supposed improvements statistically real].
1995 Lean Back and Say A'tlatl. The Atlatl 8(4): 8
How to pronounce.
1998 Papuan Spearthrowers. The Atlatl 11(3):2.
Described briefly, photo. Female type, carved spear rest, 28-31.5 inches.
Mera, H. P.
1938 Reconnaissance and Excavation in Southeastern New Mexico. Memoirs of the American Anthropological Association 51.
[Not very useful.]
Sketchy report of finds in caves in drainages in Guadalupe Mountains.
1 whole, 1 fragment atlatl.
Basketmaker type, loops missing, no evidence of weights, nock not described but looks like groove and flush hook mixed type. [Poor photo.]
Dart foreshafts with and without stone point or slot .
Merbs, Charles F.
1983 Patterns of Activity-induced Pathology in a Canadian Inuit Population. Archaeological Survey of Canada, Paper 119. Ottawa: National Museums of Canada.
Reconstructing activity from skeletal arthritis and ethnography. Suggests elbow and shoulder joint damage from throwing harpoons with and without throwing board. Complicated by other activities such as hide scraping (females), bow and arrow use, and dog sled driving.
1993 Atlatl Renaissance. Field & Stream, September 1993. Accessed 2/2002 BPS Engineering web page http://www.atlatl.com.
Account of Montana Mammoth Hunt event, focus on Bob Perkins of BPS Engineering, who has been making and selling atlatls for 7 years as his sole source of income. Says he makes “hundreds” every year. Describes his theory of atlatl weights as timing oscillation of atlatl and dart, and as silencer.
Metcalf, Harlan G.
1974 Whittlin’, Whistles, and Thingamajigs: The Pioneer Book of Nature Crafts and Recreation Arts. Stackpole Books, Harrisburg.
[This guy should get credit as one of modern atlatling’s forefathers.] Brief introduction, historical and ethnographic mentions. Considers Australian [central desert scoop woomera] form to be best type. Good photos of W. Australian throwing long spear. Kuikuru South American type recommended as easier to make [good photo]. Instructions for making simple cane spear and Kuikuru atlatl [but his are way too thick]. Recommends games, including atlatl golf. “With officially established dimensions for spears and spearthrowers of different groups and with official rules, this sport could become a popular and beneficial interscholastic and intercollegiate athletic event.” Can use atlatl for fishing.
Cordage, basketry, slings, bow and arrow and other things also covered.
2002 Ancient Spear Slings in Brazil. The Cast Spring 2002: 18.
Wauru’ and Karaya tribes, mostly sport and ritual now. Photos: hour-glass form handle with index finger hole, on rod, with lashed on hook, feather decoration. 22-24 inches long.
1949 Weapons. In Handbook of South American Indians, vol 5, Julian H. Steward, editor, pp. 229-263. Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 43. Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.
Survey of types and distributions of bow, arrows, pellet bow, blowgun, sling, bola, club, axe, dagger, spear, shield, and spear thrower.
Spear throwers known in Peru from Inca and earlier. All South American spear throwers belong to male type. Three main categories known: 1) Ancient Peru and Ecuador, 15-24 inches, lashed on hook in groove, second hook at handle for index finger grip. Hooks of stone, bone, shell, copper in effigy forms. Similar in Argentina. Taino had similar: fish bone hook, braided loop at handle. Jivaro: straight stick with lashed on hook. 2) Round wooden stick with handle widened to allow hole for forefinger, attached hook. Ancient Peru, modern Caraja and Xingu River tribes. ‘Amazonian ‘ type. Among Xingu, displaced by bow, but still used in games and dances. Upper Amazon versions seem to be thick boards with pit for forefinger or split bamboo, used for war and turtle hunting. 3) Tapering piece of wood with deep groove, horizontal peg hook attached to narrow end. One specimen, 17th C E Brazil. Mouth of Rio Plata probably southern limit of spear thrower. [No useful illustrations of any of this.]
1974 Descriptive and Distributional Notes on Atlatls and Atlatl Weights in the Great Basin. In Great Basin Atlatl Studies, R.F. Heizer, ed., pp 7‑28. Ramona: Ballena Press.
[Good compilation of Great Basin atlatls with references, although some descriptions incomplete.] Atlatl weights also described. Considerable variability in forms, but many related to SW atlatls with “mixed” form of integral hook, often with groove. Also forms with attached “male” hooks. [He seems confused about “female” form of atlatl.]
Roaring Springs I, Oregon: integral male hook, 2 finger notches, apparently no loops, 70.5 cm long, max W 7.2 cm., red ochre paint.
Roaring Springs II: integral male hook, 2 finger notches, apparently no loops, 57.2 cm long, max W 5.0 cm, max T 1.6 cm., red ochre and white dots.
Plush Cave, Oregon: integral hook and groove, finger notches, lacking loops, 54.5 cm long, max W 2.3 cm, max T 2.1 cm.
Lovelock Cave, Nevada: groove, missing hook (maybe attached type), finger notches, but unusual grip, 45 cm long, max W 4 cm. Similar to Potter Creek Cave atlatl. Also 3 fragments, all “mixed” type.
Lake Winnemucca, Nevada (Harrington 1959, Hester 1974): grooved and notched for attached hook, finger notches with leather loops, antler flaker on proximal end, 56 cm long, max W 2.5 cm, max T 1.25 cm.
Lake Winnemucca, Nevada (Hester 1974): male attached bone hook, unnotched grip, 58.1 cm long, attached large boat shaped stone weight.
Hogup Cave, Utah (Dalley and Peterson 1970): integral hook and groove, single finger loop of rawhide, 56.5 cm long, max W 3.5 cm, max T .45 cm, attached stone weight. Also 3 fragments, apparently mixed type with finger notches.
Council Hall Cave, Nevada (Hester and Mildner 1974): flush integral spurs with groove [he calls it female, but it’s not.]
Kramer Cave, Nevada: (also at Lake Winnemucca), groove with raised integral hook, flattened spatulate form with two sticks bound along side the proximal half, [he thinks might have supported dart, I don’t see from his picture how that would have been possible, they’re just to strengthen or stiffen.] Missing handle of proximal end, 38.1 cm long, max W 2.0 cm, max T 1.1 cm. Associated with contracting stem point and several foreshafts, one 59.0 cm long, dated C14 to 3, 720 + 100 B.P.
Last Supper Cave, Nevada: groove and flush integral hook, missing grip, notched to attach weight.
2002 Copper Tipped Darts. The Atlatl 15(3):1-2.
Old Copper Culture points from Midwest, probably used because more durable than stone. Two major styles: flat, shaped like stone points [with tang or notches] and conical (most common). Conical easier to make, protects end of shaft.
Miller, Michael J.
2000 A Study of Lithic Biface Manufacturing Traces in the MacCorkle Bifurcate Tradition of Ohio: Investigation into the Atlatl and Dart System. Unpublished paper for N. Kardulias class at Wooster College, available on net http://pages.wooster.edu/millermj/is/index.htm (Jan 2001)
Replicated MacCorkle points, tried deer hunt with atlatl, [limited experiments, rather vague conclusions]. Notes presence of “impact beveling” – beveled edges created or maintained by dart spin as strikes earth.
Moore, Clarence B.
1916 Some Aboriginal Sites on Green River, Kentucky. Journal of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia 16: 431-509.
Reports on burials from "The Indian Knoll" and other sites.
Most attention to antler hooks and bannerstones, interpreted tentatively as "netting needles and mesh spacers", experiment shows they work.
Atlatl theory considered, but: 1) no definite evidence of atlatls in area
2) atlatl should be one-piece for strength, 3) no points associated [not
true, he reports lots of points from burials, including antler point in bone]
4) some crooked or have too small a hole, 5) if hooks are atlatl hooks, what
are the stone "spacers" that are found with them for?
Full scale photos and plates of hooks and bannerstones, [but no burial photos showing position of atlatl parts.]
Shell weight described [but not recognized as similar to bannerstones.]
Mountford, C. P.
1941 An Unrecorded Method of Manufacturing Wooden Implements with Stone Tools. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia 65:312-326.
Pitjendadjara manufacture of woomera type atlatl using the adze stone which is often attached to the handle with gum. Stages: A. Cutting and splitting rough slab from living mulga (Acacia) tree, using local stones with natural sharp edges, and wooden wedges. The main stone was gneiss, weighed 7 lbs, abandoned after use. Took a couple hours, several men participated. B. Shaping and finishing. Removed bark and heartwood, using smaller unflaked stones (gneiss, 3 lbs), leaving it roughly finished. Then smoothed and flaked with adze stone in spear thrower handle, held and 30 degree angle and used with planing or scraping stroke, sometimes chopping. Adze stone retouched several times by “tapping with wooden blade of a spear to remove miniature flakes” while held in palm. Adze stone set into mass of spinifex gum with 1/8-3/16 “ of edge projecting. Any flake of suitable size with a cutting edge, natural or knapped. Often stored in owner’s hair! “Throwing peg” attached with gum and sinew, at about 30 degree angle. Whole spear-thrower rubbed with red ochre. Total time, 3-4 hours. [Diagrams and photos of process.]
Most important tool in their sparse material culture: serves as spear-thrower, cutting tool, small dish, firemaking friction saw.
1967 Premature Conclusions Concerning the "Atlatl Weight" Theory as Applied to Forms of Stone Age Artifacts of the American Aborigines. Central States Archaeological Journal 12-14: 71-74.
Questions blanket interpretation of "bannerstones" as "atlatl weights." Gives reasons why at least some specimens not functional as such.
1892 Ethnological Results of the Point Barrow Expedition. Ninth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, for 1887-88, pp. 19-451. Government Printing Office, Washington D. C.
Expedition of 1881-83 to northernmost (top) of Alaska. Still some stone tools in use, although many heirloomed and slate knives etc now replaced by steel. Bow drill “universal among Eskimo.” Muskets began arriving between 1837 and 1849, now old guns and modern Winchesters common, mostly superseding bows. Bows sinew backed, arrows fletched, points of flaked stone, metal, or barbed bone. “Hand board” or “throwing board” used to throw darts. Bird dart ca 5 ft long, .7 ft diam., unfletched, barbed bone tip or multiple tips, three barbs on shaft near base in case head misses. Considerable accuracy at 20 to 30 yards. Seal darts similar, although once used heavier ones, barbed bone heads attach to a float. [Seems odd that he describes darts before atlatls.] Throwing board is “flat narrow board 15-18 inches long with handle at one end and groove along the upper surface in which the spear lies with the but resting against a catch at the other end. The dart is propelled by a quick motion of the wrist, as in casting with a fly-rod, which swings up the tip of the board and launches the dart. This contrivance, which practically makes of the hand a lever 18 inches long, enables the thrower by a slight motion of the wrist to impart great velocity to the dart.” [Fairly simple atlatl, two shown, like the one I made], spruce wood, hole for forefinger, groove, ivory hook “shaped like a flat headed [square] nail,” long triangular shape with flared handle. [He describes the motion correctly too.] Metal also used for hooks, board usually painted with red ochre. Toggling harpoon heads with blades of stone or metal appear to be used only on hand thrown walrus or seal harpoons. Stone heads considered necessary for good luck in whale hunting, even when used in conjunction with metal or guns. Bird bolas also used. Still making stone tools, especially for sale to ethnographer. Pressure flaking into palm with short compound flaker tipped with ivory, iron, or stone. Bow drill formerly used for fire, now flint and steel.
1896 Dr. Nansen's "Throwing Stick." Appletons' Popular Science Monthly June 1896: 173-175.
Alaskan atlatl of Bering Straight type found on SW coast of Greenland 1886.
Probably floated on current N through Bering St, then W across pole, then S between Iceland and Greenland, then N around tip of Greenland and up W coast.
Inspired Dr. Nansen to think could do same thing in ship.
Murray, William Breen, and Hector Lazcano
2000 Atlatl Hunters of the Sierra Madre Oriental (Mexico). The Atlatl 13(4):3-5.
Rock art atlatls mark good spots for shooting at animals below in spring and similar areas. Tested several sites. Petroglyphs show “winged” atlatls, which may be transitional between bow and atlatl. [That makes no sense, maybe some sort of weight is what is shown.]
Nassaney, Michael S. and Kendra Pyle
1999 The Adoption of the Bow and Arrow in Eastern North America: A View from Central Arkansas. American Antiquity 64(2):243-264.
Regional survey of small point (= arrow) replacement of large points indicates likely earlier than previously thought - perhaps as early as 3000 BC in central plains with unifacial arrow points. Then some areas gradual transition with decrease in size of dart points and transitional forms. In AR, abrupt introduction of arrow shown by bimodality of metric traits and different form of large and small points, and by different manufacture techniques, but long period of overlap, 700-1100 A.D. Suggest different strategies of adoption and transition with experimentation all over until wide use of small bifacial points by A.D. 700.
Neuman, Robert W.
1967 Atlatl Weights from Certain Sites on the Northern and Central Great Plains. American Antiquity 32(1):36-53.
Interpretation of such artifacts as atlatl weights since Kidder + Guernsey finds.
Data given on 60 weights of "boatstone" type, with measurements, weights, and some drawings.
Class I = loaf shaped, plano convex, often grooved across top center for attachment. Class II = end-ridged, like I but with bumps at ends. Class III = long elipsoid. Class IV = zoomorphic, like II but bumps at ends form ears of animal head.
1891 The Atlatl or Spear-Thrower of the Ancient Mexicans. Archaeological and Ethnographic Papers of the Peabody Museum 1(3):171-198. Cambridge.
[This paper is probably why we use term "atlatl"].
Surveys Mesoamerican evidence: codices, sculpture, 3 specimens, Spanish chronicles. Small drawings from Aztec depictions.
Aztec myth: Given by Huitzilopochtli, or invented during Aztecs’ wanderings = perhaps required for aquatic hunting on lakes in Valley of Mexico.
Briefly summarizes Spanish accounts - most atlatl descriptions vague.
Linguistics - sorting out old Spanish terms and mistakes, "Atlatl" relates to verb "tlaca", to throw, aim, cast. But originally used by fishermen (=atlacatl: atl=water, tlacatl=men) - Atlatl synthesizes atl=water + tlatlacani=thrower, so atlatl = water thrower.
Usually depicted with spear and shield, which allows identification of stylized forms.
IDs types: I1)one finger hole; I2) two or 3 holes; I3) 2 side loops or attached rings; II) opposed lateral finger pegs. [She probably should add type III - simple grip handle, which seems to be shown in a few cases.]
Extant specimens: British Museum, London, and Museum fur Volkerkunde, Berlin - not described, and Museum Kircheriana, Rome: grip rings missing, hardwood, groove and spur, 56 cm L, 19-37 mm W, carved ornament including serpents (on other 2 also), gilded.
Symbolism: Huitzilopochtli depicted with blue serpent atlatl (Xiuatlatl or Xiucoatal) - turquoise ornamented atlatls in chronicles. Also with Xiutecuhtli, Tezcatlipoca, and Quetzalcoatl. Ceremonial atlatls depicted like bishop's crozier, associated with lightning.
So associated with all important gods, war, serpents and lightning.
Nelson, Edward William
1899 The Eskimo About Bering Strait. 18th Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, for 1897-98, pp. 19-526. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.
Expedition to Western coast of Alaska 1877-1881, collected some 10,000 specimens, herein described, covering most of material culture. Still using some stone tools as well as metal, shows “flint flakers” [pressure], but no description of knapping. Drilling holes and friction fire using bow drill. Bow and arrow, sling, throwing board, and bolas all used. Seal spears 4-4.5 feet long, often fletched, barbed head attached to shaft by cord for drag, used with throwing board. Walrus and whale spears are about same length but heavier, unfletched, attached by cord to a float board or skin float for drag, more likely to have a toggling harpoon head. Bird spears are lighter, sometimes fletched, with two or three bone points. The “throwing sticks” have tapering shape with paddle handle, depressions and pegs for finger grips, sometimes a forefinger hole, groove with ivory peg hook. [Small photo shows 11 examples, similar but variable]. “The Eskimo are very expert in casting spears with the throwing stick. The small light spears used in hunting seals are cast from 30 to 50 yards with considerable accuracy and force.” Practice “by the hour” at young waterfowl, very accurate. Bird spears generally cast overhand but sometimes with underhand throw to skim the water surface. “In using the throwing stick for casting the spear in a curve through the air by an overhand motion, the throwing stick is held pointing backward; the end of the spear shaft is laid in the groove on its upper surface resting against the ivory pin or other crosspiece, the shaft of the spear crosses the fingers and is held in position with the thumb and forefinger around the throwing stick.” Variants described for peg grips. Length is point of right elbow to tip of outstretched forefinger, or for whale, plus one forefinger width. Seal spear length is three times elbow to finger tip plus 2 left thumb widths plus width of left hand.
Bows are sinew backed. Muzzle loading guns becoming common.
2000 Atlatl Darts made with Gold Tip 75-95 Carbon Fiber Tube. The Cast Fall/Winter 2000:17-18.
Detailed instructions for light, durable but complex takedown dart. Weighs 2.25-2.75 oz (70-86 gm), about 66 inches long (168 cm), balanced at 31-38%.
2001 New Guinea Spear Thrower. The Cast Spring 2001:6.
Short summary with pictures: bamboo thrower with female nock, used with long wooden pointed unfletched darts. [No references]
2001 Darts for Carp. The Cast Spring 2001:7.
Carp with spear or bow legal in Michigan. Recommends practice on water filled plastic bottles in lake until refraction learned. Line on end of dart eliminates need for fletching, barbed point can detach with line also.
2002 Woven Finger Loops: Why Knot? The Cast Spring 2002: 17.
How to make woven string loop. [But no info on attaching it to atlatl].
Ortner, Donald J.
1968 Description and classification of degenerative bone changes in the distal joint surfaces of the humerus. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 28:139-156.
Describes arthritic changes to the capitulum of the humerus where it articulates with the head of the radius in both flexing and rotating at the elbow. He calls this “atlatl elbow” throughout. Compares Peruvian and Eskimo skeletal remains, and finds higher frequency of elbow arthritis in Eskimo, but he is not arguing that it is caused specifically by atlatl use, just that the symptoms of “atlatl elbow” are probably caused by stressful use of the arm.
1940 Ingalik Material Culture. Yale University Publications in Anthropology Number 21. Reprinted 1970, Human Relations Area Files Press, New Haven.
Inland S. Alaska Athapaskan (not Eskimo) groups on the Yukon River. Principle informant Billy Williams born 1884. [Complete entry p.201, atlatl apparently no longer used by 1939.] :
“Spear Thrower and Darts: te lakoi, water/to throw. The name apparently comes from the fact that the spear thrower is commonly used from a canoe on the water. [Fascinating parallel with atlatl, see Nuttall]. Men make spear throwers out of spruce wood, birch wood, or bone. My informant recognized illustrations in Nelson’s monograph on the Bering Sea Eskimo as being typical of those formerly used among the Ingalik. Darts associated with the thrower were also recognized. Darts are said never to be feathered nor to have points attached in the center of the shaft [like Bering bird darts]. The spear thrower and darts are used only for hunting ducks.”
Bows and arrows had more use. Bows apparently not sinew backed. Fire drill usually with a cord, rarely with bow.
1972 The Eskimos (Yuk) of Western Alaska. In Modern Alaskan Native Material Culture, edited by W. Oswalt, pp. 73-95. University of Alaska Museum.
One of a group of surveys of culture change in artifacts in 1970-71. Most other groups mention apparently not using throwing boards any more, but here: “It is something of a surprise that sealing and whaling harpoons based on aboriginal models continue to be important hunting weapons. Sealing harpoons have either a toggling head of a barbed head. In both instances the head is made from a solid piece of copper, brass, or aluminum which is hacksawed into rough form and filed into final form.” Foreshaft is a nail, shaft is cedar with modern paint, head is attached with cotton or nylon cord. “These weapons are always propelled with the aid of a throwing board, which usually has a wooden peg and is painted with a commercial paint.” Beluga whaling harpoons heavier, hand thrown. Harpoon still needed because shot seals sink, so they are harpooned and then shot, or if beyond harpoon range, shot and then harpooned as soon as possible. [Although the collections made in this project include throwing boards from several villages, there is no full description and no illustrations of any of the objects, which greatly lessens the value of this publication.]
2002 Back to Iowa After 65 Years. Prehistoric American 36(2):31-34.
Six large ferruginous quartz butterfly bannerstones found in field by workers in 1930’s, acquired by Ben Nussbaum. [“Nussbaum Cache” – but who knows if they were actually together, or what information was destroyed by finders or circumstances.] Full size color photos.
Palmer, Jay W.
2001 A Basketmaker II Massacre Revisited. North American Archaeologist 22(2):117-141.
Wetherill’s Cave 7 site in SE Utah (see Hurst and Turner 1993). Ninety-six Basketmaker (ca 500 BC to AD 400) people killed with bone daggers, clubs, atlatl darts. Victims were Proto-Kiowa in conflict with recently arrived Penutian/Hokan/Dineh who later became Proto-Zuni. The killers are so identified in part by use of clubs and bow and arrow. [This is all a tenuous tissue of speculation based on very complex and problematic genetic and linguistic reconstructions. There are also problems with his understanding of Basketmaker in general, and with artifact information. In particular he considers some unnotched bifaces to be adzes used as weapons, and accepts the 19th century identification of two of the points in wounds as arrow points, which they almost certainly are not.] The site is notable for atlatl use in warfare, including one obsidian point reported to have “pinned the hip bones together” on one corpse [unlikely to be a knife as he assumes.]
Palter, John L.
1976 A New Approach to the Significance of the "Weighted" Spear Thrower. American Antiquity 41(4): 500-510.
No ethnographic weights, prehistoric North America only.
Tests contradictory, his show distance decreases with heavier weight.
Balance hypothesis: not necessary unless spear were heavy, why just N.A.?
Weighted Basketmaker atlatls flat and flexible - Weight would augment flexibility. [Similar to theories of Perkins and Leininger 1989, Hayes 1994]
Prehistoric specimens mostly less than 80 grams, rest may be non-functional.
Palter, John L.
1977 Design and Construction of Australian Spear-Thrower Projectiles and Hand-Thrown Spears. Archaeology and Physical Anthropology in Oceania 12(3):161-172.
Ethnographic specimens: 33 hand-thrown and 293 spear thrower spears [unfortunately not illustrated].
Hypothesized diffusion after 10,000 bp, but thrower not used all over Australia.
Two length groups of spear thrower spears: 1) average 160 cm, 2) average 260cm. Hand-thrown spears average 267 cm.
Mass: Hand-thrown average 740 gm, thrower average 246 gm.
Decreased mass allows maximum velocity - led to composite reed spears, with hardwood points.
Balance: spear thrower spears: weight forward, 32-40% and 42-46% of length from tip, while hand-thrown spears typically 46-50%.
Palter, John L.
1999 Slinging Spears: Recent Evidence on Flexible Shaft Spear Throwers. SAA Bulletin 17(2): 2-3, 16.
In 1976 believed bannerstone exploited flex of spear thrower. New evidence from communication with Strischek, who says flexible atlatl hurts his wrist less and gets more distance, and most modern US atlatlists use them. Europeans prefer rigid atlatls - will they change if flexible are more effective? [Not in itself very useful, but interesting that older archaeologist has found non-academic atlatl community.]
Parker, Arthur C.
1917 Notes on the Banner Stone, With Some Inquiries as to its Purpose. New York State Museum Bulletin 196: 165-176. Albany.
Found just before and after white man, in villages and mounds [incorrect info].
Experiment: winged form serves like fletching on spear, works also as spindle whorl in drilling.
Perhaps part of effigy bird forms associated with fire and lightning, maybe head ornament as on copper cut-out of falcon dancer from mound.
Moore's "mesh spacer" theory also possible, also idea of atlatl weight.
Manufacture described from specimens.
Patterson, J. T.
Date? Boat-Shaped Artifacts of the Gulf Southwest States. Anthropological Papers of the University of Texas Vol 1, No. 2. Summarized in The Dart: Ohio Atlatl Association Newsletter, March 2001: 7-9.
Source of “boat-stone”: Mohawk woman said witches use to cross rivers. Other early interpretations. Study 359 specimens, concluded atlatl weights, but none yet found in association with atlatls.
Patterson, L. W.
1975 The Atlatl Function: Some Comments. The Record (Dallas Archaeological Society) 31(3):5-7.
Added leverage and increased angular momentum through a rotational motion is closer to the actual function than Howard’s (1974) added force-time with a level atlatl. He diagrams, and calculates average 47% increase in leverage over hand throwing.
1977 Atlatl Functions: Comments on Howard's Views. Plains Anthropologist 22(76 pt 1): 159‑160.
Supports rotational model, contra Howard 1974.
Payen, Louis A.
1970 A Spearthrower (atlatl) from Potter Creek Cave, Shasta County, California. University of California, Davis, Center for Archaeological Research Publication No. 2: Papers on California and Great Basin Prehistory.
Cache in cave, with basketry, feathers, stone tools, shells.
Nearly complete but poorly preserved atlatl. One-piece wood, 35.3 cm L, 3.3-1.65 cm W, .8-1.2 cm T. Opposed finger notches, no loops, flat palm grip, single groove on hook side, 2 parallel grooves on other, but hook end is rotted off. [He is confused about dorsal and ventral – ventral, not dorsal is the hook side, but it is not clear if he can really tell which side had the hook anyway.] Very similar to Lovelock Cave atlatl (Loud and Harrington 1929).
Fragments of 3-part compound darts, tangential fletching on hardwood endshafts with socket, light wood mid shafts, hardwood foreshafts with and without stone points. Gives details of shafts. Points are small obsidian, stemmed or leaf shape, 2-3 gm weight, which is “arrow” size (Fenenga 1953).
C14 dates for darts from other sites: Gypsum Cave 950 BC + 80; Leonard Rockshelter 5188 BC + 350; La Brea 2500 BC + 200. Potter Creek should compare to Lovelock Culture, so suggest 1000 BC – AD 300 but no C14 yet.
[Atlatl, points, foreshafts illustrated]
Peabody, Charles [sic from Kellar]
1904 Explorations of Mounds, Coahoma County, Mississippi. Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Anthropology Papers 3(2):?
Apparently first to suggest antler hooks from SE were part of atlatls.
Peck, Rodney M.
1989 Pick Type Bannerstones: The Atlatl Weight of the Stanly Culture. The Chesopiean 27(3):14-17.
Manufactured by peck, grind, scrape, drill, polish in that order, from a variety of materials. Drills solid or hollow. Broken specimens often reworked. Stanly Culture = Archaic VA and Carolinas, est 7000 BP, assoc with Stanly + Kirk Stemmed pts, introduction of full grooved axes.
1959 A Butterfly Bannerstone as an Atlatl Weight. Ohio Archaeologist 9(3): 83-87.
Fragile but functional, his replica survives atlatl weight/hook use.
Possible evolution from hand, throw with finger on end of dart, use short "palm" atlatl like Santa Barbara which adds force but is hard to balance, to lengthened atlatl or weighted atlatl to balance spear.
[No description of how he used his bannerstone, but photos show he put it on extreme end of atlatl and used edge of butterfly wing as hook for dart.]
Recommends a "brake" in motion as dart leaves atlatl rather than follow through.
[No mention of flex, his atlatl seems rigid.]
"To attain accuracy I should have started 70 years ago" [He can't hit human-size target at 20-40 yards, so I would not judge experiment a success.]
1960 Experiments in the Use of Atlatl Weights. American Antiquity 26(1): 108‑110.
Weight makes no difference to distance of cast.
Weights probably for balance of spear on hand.
[Motion not described, but inaccuracy mentioned.]
Peters, Brian, and Glenn Sykora
1998 Physics and the Atlatl, Part I. The Atlatl 11(3):3.
Type III atlatl vs hand throws, speed estimated from distance (24.2 m/sec).
Pepper, George H.
1905 The Throwing-stick of a Prehistoric People of the Southwest. Proceedings of the International Congress of Americanists, 13th Session, 1905. pp. 107-130.
Describes atlatls associated with Basketmakers, pre-Cliff Dweller, no bow and arrow.
Comparisons - Mexico, Cushings Florida finds, others.
Several SW specimens described, mostly Utah, with some dimensions and a few illustrated.
Snake and lightning symbolism.
Spears - often cane, many wood foreshafts from Utah, with stone points, bone bunts, one hardened wood in cranium.
Mentions some experiments with atlatl and fletching, but not described.
Perkins, William R.
1990 Old and New World Atlatls: A Study of Similarities in Form and Function Centering on the Nazca Culture of South American and Tribes of Papua, New Guinea. The Atlatl 3(3):3-4
"Miscue" when dart comes off nock and is struck by atlatl can be prevented by "dart guard" on atlatl - found in both New Guinea and South America.
Perkins, William R.
1992 Stealth Technology 1992 B.C. Bulletin of Primitive Technology 1(4):67‑69.
Atlatl weights have 2 functions: 1) force flex of atlatl to store and release energy 2) silence sound of movement thru air [I don’t find either convincing].
Dismisses argument that serve as counter-weight when aiming - arm goes to sleep. [He’s probably right, if you picture hunter crouched in aiming position for an hour!]
Perkins, William R.
1993 Atlatl Weights: Function and Classification. Bulletin of Primitive Technology 1(5):58-61. The Atlatl 15(2):10-11 (2002)
Confined to N. America. Theories: counter-balance, greater distance, hunting magic.
Weights not heavy enough to influence speed of swing and thus dart velocity [not true, they often are, and depends on how placed]. No steadying effect. Flexible dart most important part of system. Purpose of weight is to resist acceleration, allowing atlatl to store more spring energy, and time release to spring of dart.
Types: I - ca. 65 grams in one or two points, [where does he get this 65 gm?] II. 65 grams distributed by long weight, III. "stealth" weight or bannerstone. Mass ca 80 gm on atlatls ca. 40 cm, (shorter than 60 cm western weighted atlatls). Work mechanically like I, but silences noise of atlatl swing. Measured with microphone.
Perkins, William R.
1995 Effects of Stone Projectile Points as a Mass Within the Atlatl and Dart Mechanical System. Bulletin of Primitive Technology 10:69‑72.
1997 Effects of Stone Projectile Points as a Mass Within the Atlatl and Dart Mechanical System. Indian Artifact Magazine 16(2):18-19, 65.
Dart is most important part of "spring mass mechanical system" - it flexes, and mass of point resists force, helps flex dart and store energy. Longer darts need bigger pts with more mass to flex efficiently.
Distance tests - variation +1.5 gm around a 9 gm mass is ok
Temporal trend to smaller points reflects faster darts, but more sensitive, so need more standardization of points in each local tradition [inadequate example given, and what about resharpening?]
Stone points preferred to other materials because more mass.
Really long darts like Australia - large points, or none if enough dart mass to flex without.
Ideal proportions of system: DartLength = AtlatlLength X pi
[Dart flex is necessary, but I think he greatly exaggerates the importance of dart flex as stored energy – try flexing a dart against a stop and letting it spring forward. How far does it go? Does weight of point really affect flex, or mostly balance?].
Perkins, William R.
2000 Effects of Stone Projectile Points as a Mass Within the Atlatl and Dart Mechanical System and its Relationship to the Bow and Arrow. Indian Artifact Magazine 19(2):8-9, 78-79.
Projectile advances all make smaller go faster, because Energy = ½ Mass X Square of Velocity, and flatter trajectory more accurate.
Archaeological studies show arrow pts <3 gm, dart > 4 gm.
Mass of points is important because in flexible shaft, energy is stored by flexing at launch, needs mass of point to resist push and cause flex, whether bow or atlatl. Also, to develop skill, need to use consistent points. Principles are same whether bow or atlatl, so bow evolved from atlatl [No – no good argument for that]. Foreshafts develop to tune system, and to minimize loss of length and thus flex with breakage.
Specific point masses are most efficient with a given dart length and flex, with limited (2-3 gm) range of variation possible. Tests at ca. 120 yds show a shaft designed for a 9 gm pt lost 3-7 yds of range when point varied by only 1.5-2.5 gm. [Given the variability inherent in the test, is a 2.5-6% variation really meaningful? – Doubt it.] Later points are generally lighter, so need more sophisticated gear, and also lighter shaft materials. But small point needs shorter shaft, needs shorter atlatl, which reduces possible range. Bow makes such small projectiles work. Small points have even more limited possible variation, large early points much more. [This is really just a numerical effect.] Very large darts have enough mass without points.
[Perkins is looking at interesting variables, but I’m not convinced. I think he exaggerates the effect of flexing the shaft – especially in bow and arrow, the contribution of shaft flex to the energy of the flight is very minor. He exaggerates the need for consistency too – human variability in each throw is so great that it far outweighs the effects of small changes in point mass, or dart mass or flex for that matter, both for accuracy and distance ( see Couch et al 1999). Despite his archaeological example, point consistency is low, even in small arrow points – and my experience shows it doesn’t matter. For instance, I have often broken a couple inches or more off a dart, re-pointed it, and used it with little change observable.]
Perkins, William R.
2000 Archeological, Experimental, and Mathematical Evidence Supporting the Use of the Atlatl as a Primary Big Game Procurement Weapon of Prehistoric Americans. Bulletin of Primitive Technology 20: 69-72.
“Atlatl is not a spear thrower, it is a dart launcher.” – requires flex of dart to spring off hook. [Unexplained concept of oscillations involved too.] Flexing force proportional to length of dart, shorter requires less, thus needs smaller point. Most efficient is L Dart = L Atlatl x Pi, best at middle ranges, so shorter for closer, longer atlatl for longer distance. Archaeological evidence of multiple lengths from rock art [not reliable]. Flexible atlatl adds efficiency, but hard to adjust by changing flex or length. Atlatl weight allows adjustment by influencing flex [contradictory], function same as dart point. Archaeological evidence and experiments show atlatl effective as hunting weapon. Eskimo use short, rigid harpoon thrower, not real atlatl. Eskimo effective at ranges less than 15 m, atlatl dart oscillation means it’s not [not true]. [Perkins doesn’t explain his physics well, and I think is incorrect in many assertions.]
Perkins, William R. and Paul Leininger
1989 The Weighted Atlatl and Dart: A Deceptively Complicated Mechanical System. The Atlatl 2(2):1-3; 2(3):1-4; 3(1):1-3.
Atlatl is to propel light flexible dart, not heavy spear.
Flex of dart is essential to spring spear off hook before atlatl decelerates and swings down.
Dart flex stores and uses "harmonic oscillation and transverse waves" [a more complex explanation of concept of dart as spring].
Recommended darts: Red ossier dogwood saplings, 160 cm long, 1 cm thick, 100 grams mass.
Atlatl length affects arc length: longer atlatl better for long distance.
Weighting an "average" atlatl (= 1/3 dart length) compensates and allows adjustment for distance.
Atlatl flexes, influenced by weight, which by affecting flex, times separation of dart and atlatl.
Pickering, R. B.
1984 Patterns of degenerative joint disease in Middle Woodland, Late Woodland, and Mississsippian skeletal series from the Lower Illinois Valley. PhD thesis, Northwestern University, Evanston.
Compared skeletal populations using atlatl with those using bow, was unable to find significant differences in arthritis (atlatl elbow) or other markers attributable to weaponry.
1997 Pascal Chauvaux Best in the World. The Atlatl 10(1):1-2.
Reports International Standard Accuracy Contest scores for 1996.
1999 Garry Fogelman: Top Thrower. The Atlatl 12(1):1-2.
Top ISAC scores for 1998: G. Fogelman 93-2X, C. Birkett top woman 67.
1973 The Archaic Banner-Stone: A Social Category Marker. The Lambda Alpha Journal of Man 5(1): 1-26.
Banner stones were atlatl weights, but also symbol of social category in ranked society.
Burial information analysed from Green River sites like Indian Knoll: few have goods, fewer have bannerstone, which is mostly with other goods as well, and with all age and sex, but mostly young adult males.
Possibly seasonal leadership [no evidence].
Purdy, Barbara A.
1991 The Art and Archaeology of Florida's Wetlands. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
Photo of two atlatl hooks, short cylindrical sections of antler with tine as spur, from Bay West site, ca 6000 B.P.
Also photo of shell hook from Warm Mineral Springs, possibly PaleoIndian in date [see Claussen et al. 1975, Cockrell and Murphy 1978]. Skeleton [is this the one associated with shell hook?] dated 7140-7580 B.P. so Middle Preceramic Archaic.
1992 Atlatls: Throwing for Distance. Bulletin of Primitive Technology
Need flex in both atlatl and dart.
Fletching not necessary if dart balanced, and not same diameter for its full length.
Recommends short light dart, tapered and point-heavy, unfletched, and long light flexible atlatl. Achieved distances of over 500 ft.
1996 A Brief Coverage of Atlatl Styles, Construction, and Useage. Xerox pamphlet privately distributed.
Brief how-to make atlatl and darts.
1986 Experiments in the Function and Performance of the Weighted Atlatl. World Archaeology 18(2): 153‑177.
Atlatl makes arc, but not with the diameter = arm + atlatl, i.e. nock and spear follow straight line, w/handle going down.
Some speed/distance advantage from weight [unconvincing].
Weight stabilizes, improves accuracy.
Atlatl survived against bow because produced more force than primitive bow [not than modern though] and allowed one handed use in Eskimo fishing from Kayak [and Aztec w/shield].
Used high speed photos.
1999 West Texas Atl-Atl Cache. The Texas Cache 5(2):cover, 4-5.
Parts of 3 atlatls from looted TX cave. Poor photos and information, but looks like Basketmaker style with mixed type integral hook, finger loops. Some decorative marking, one drilled, slot on one for lashing weight, mark of weight on one.
Supposedly with "paleo" points [but since it’s a looted site, can't trust the information, date, or even be sure they are not fakes].
1999 The West Texas Atlatl Cache. Indian Artifact Magazine 18(3):6-7.
Similar to above, but good photos. Parts of 3 atlatls from looted TX cave, bought by author. Description is brief, but with photos can tell that: “Paleo” points are concave base forms. Atlatl 1: complete but missing loops. Odd squared hook. 20.9 inch long, 1.25 W, .375 T. Two long slits through groove lengthwise. Handle grip carved. Atlatl 2: handle fragment, simple straight form, groove for hook, zigzag decoration on back.. Atlatl 3: handle fragment, simple straight form but hollowed. Loops are twig lashed on with cordage, rather flimsy. Two drilled holes. [Interesting, too bad they were looted].
1997 In the Movies. The Atlatl 10(4):1-2.
On being atlatl consultant for movie "Eaters of the Dead", with fictional primitives using atlatl from horseback. [Michael Crichton book, eventually movie out August 1999 as “The 13th Warrior,” where no actual atlatl use is visible.]
Riddell, Francis A. and Donald F. McGeein
1969 Atlatl Spurs from California. American Antiquity 34(4):474-478.
Three types described, with distributions. All similar forms, with flat bottoms, rounded spur head attached to flat or grooved extension for lashing to atlatl.
I)"Snakehead", usually stone. II) "Acorn" bone or antler. III) Variant of I?.
[Type distinctions not explained, nor evident in illustrations].
Associated with Central CA Early Horizon - Martis Complex, Lovelock period in Great Basin, 3-4000 B.P. (Archaic). One with associated C14 dates ca. 7500 B.P.
2001 Practice, Perseverence, Patience, Provides Pork: An Atlatl Hunting Experience. The Atlatl 14(3):11.
Boar, private game farm. [No distance given].
Roberts, Frank H. H.
1929 Recent Archeological Developments in the Vicinity of El Paso, Texas. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections 81(7).
Short article, describes cave finds by amateurs, discusses SW connections, pictographs. Finds include sandals, rabbit or fending sticks, netting, mosaic armband.
Several atlatl darts described [with photo]: ca 5 ft long, socket at proximal end for hook, at distal end for foreshaft. All had cordage and sticks tied to proximal end, making them unusable/ritual? Foreshafts mentioned but not described.
2001 Aim, Fire, Thwock!: Atlatl Devotees Show Off Their Stuff. Archaeology 54(5):20-21.
Information from WAA annual meeting at Flint Ridge, C.Brown, L. Clubb. Good description of atlatl, [but it was not used by H. erectus, nor does it have force of .357]. WAA formed 1987, now 436 members. Mentions weights, dart flex, record of 848.56 feet, pleasures of society.
Roth, Walter E.
1909 North Queensland Ethnography, Bulletin 13: Fighting Weapons. Records of the Australian Museum 7(4):190-211, plates lviii-lxi, figure 12.
Spears used with spear thrower or hand thrown may be made from bamboo, sapling, or split from tree. Some are compound. Points may be wooden, stingaree spine, tri-pronged for fishing, barbed with wood, bone or wire, or with multiple stone flakes fixed on each side of the shaft with gum. [Gives names of spears, wood, and supposed uses of different types in different areas. In some areas, no spear throwers are used.] Similar details for different types of wommera [his spelling; different native names also given]. Lacking in E. coastal districts and Brisbane. Most primitive form is hooked stick in Wellesley Islands and adjacent mainland, 2.5 feet long, round in section with raised flattened end forming hook. “Arai-i” is flat blade with attached peg hook and handle with shell. [Common N. Australia form, straight rigid vertical blade, quite long]. Used as spear guard as well as thrower. Localized variation in handle, peg, wood, names, decoration described. Bloomfield River area has a short curved or “moonshaped” version (“ballur”) which is used for fish spearing, as well as the straight form. Grip on ballur: “blade rests in fork between the first finger and the thumb, instead of, as in the ordinary style, between first and second fingers.” Two other types brought in, not local: plain stick with lashed on wood hook, tassel of hair at grip, and flat lath with attached hook, narrowed grip, usually painted.
Boomerangs, shields, throwing clubs, and wooden “swords” all given same detailed treatment. [Boring, long descriptions of minute details, but some useful material].
Rousselot, Jean-Loup, William W. Fitzhugh, and Aron Crowell
1988 Maritime Economies of the North Pacific Rim. In Crossroads of Continents: Cultures of Siberia and Alaska, edited by W. W. Fitzhugh and A. Crowell, pp. 151-181. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington D.C.
Discusses darts and harpoon heads. Two kinds: barbed, and toggling. Toggling common in ice areas because less likely to break off, freeing animal. Toggling harpoon was adopted by European whalers from Eskimo in 17th C. [Nice but small] color photo of 4 atlatls: Bering Sea Eskimo, Aleut, 2 different Koniag Eskimo, and three darts: Aleut light sea otter dart, Bering Sea seal dart (heavier) and multi-pronged bird dart.
Rutter, Clark H.
1935 Target Practice with Mayan Throwing Sticks. Popular Science Monthly, August 1935. Online 11/23/98 at http://www.crl.com/~mjr/stick5.html.
Simple atlatl inspired by Mayans, for sport, to throw arrow. Simple instructions, claims range 500 ft.
Salls, Roy A.
1986 The La Brea Atlatl Foreshafts: Inferences for the Millingstone Horizon. Pacific Coast Archaeological Society Quarterly 22(2): 21-30.
Four foreshafts: 1 bunt, 3 wooden points, [poor photo].
Found with extinct fauna but also Millingstone Horizon artifacts (ca. 6000 BC - 1000 AD), strata mixed, darts not with fauna, C14 on one 2500 BC.
Confirms atlatl use in Millingstone Horizon.
Sassaman, Kenneth E.
1998 Crafting Cultural Identity in Hunter-Gatherer Economies. In Craft and Social Identity. C. L. Costin and R. P. Wright, eds., pp. 93-107. Archaeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association Number 8.
Even in egalitarian societies, crafts serve to delineate cultural boundaries and express identity and power relationships. Stallings Island Late Archaic in Savanna River Valley, GA and SC had earliest N. Am. pottery (4500 BP), large populations, relatively complex social order, including major split between coastal (with early pottery and shellfishing) and riverine groups (without). Left handed pottery decoration frequencies distinguish different subregions; failure of piedmont groups to adopt pottery suggests women and their crafts did not marry out (to neighboring ethnic groups). Bannerstones may be atlatl parts, but “elaborate and hypertrophic forms” suggest ceremonialism and prestige use. A few remote sites in piedmont zone have most of the manufacturing evidence of Southern Ovate bannerstones (starting 4300 BP), suggesting few craftsmen, but wide distribution of products. Marginalized from coastal centers of Stalling culture, piedmont sites used bannerstones in exchange outside, to other cultures. Change at 4000 BP when Notched Southern Ovate form appears, localized to middle Savannah R., but now manufacture evidence on many habitation sites. By 3800 BP all gone. Early maybe reflects acquisition of distant resources as route to social power, later more elaborate stones perhaps emphasize craftsmanship.
1998 Building a Life-Size Mammoth. The Atlatl 11(3):6.
Atlatl target for Minnesota event - styrofoam over wood frame, fake hair.
Schmidt, Robert N.
1984 Another Look at the Bannerstone. The Wisconsin Archeologist 65(1):83-95.
Early crude forms not likely ceremonial objects (Knoblock).
Webb atlatl theory flawed because "no drilled stones actually found on an identifiable spearthrower assembly," some antler hooks "quite fragile...do not seem suited for atlatl service."
Battering and breakage of hole ends not from atlatl use.
New hypothesis: sliding hammerstone for flintknapping.
Indirect percussion easiest to learn, better yet if hammer and punch linked - hammer slides down shaft to strike shoulder of punch at end of shaft ca 85 cm long.
Some bannerstones wouldn't work; simpler ones would.
Polish in hole on experimental stone - but might be "erased by time" on archaeological specimens [how, without damage to exterior polish?] Damage to ends similar to experimental [but also mentions alternative sources, i.e. manufacture].
Photos of 18 points made, experimental bannerstone, device in use.
[Hard to tell how effective this really is, but I am highly skeptical that it is effective knapping tool. Most bannerstones lack hammer wear, and evidence of atlatl association is good.]
1966 The Wauru: Brazilian Indians of the Hidden Xingu. National Geographic 129(1):130-152.
Photos show men using atlatl against scarecrow in practice for intertribal game. [No mention of hunting or real warfare. Darts look a head taller than the men, with blunt “stone” tip. Thrower has flat flared handle with single central finger hole, feather tuft at hook end, hook not visible.]
1996 The Oldest Bow ... and other objects. Current Archaeology 149:188-189.
Dating organic objects in National Museum of Scotland. Longbow from bog C14 dated to 4040-3640 BC (Neolithic).
Shott, Michael J.
1993 Spears, Darts, and Arrows: Late Woodland Hunting Techniques in the Upper Ohio Valley. American Antiquity 58(3):425-443.
Shift from notched or stemmed to generally smaller triangular bifaces in eastern N. America between 1500 and 1200 B.P. often interpreted as introduction of bow and arrow. Numerous theories of cultural change discussed: increased hunting and warfare efficiency, fall of the Hopewell, population dispersals, etc.
Test with data from two late Woodland sites. Childers site, 1295 B.P. wide range native domesticates and wild plants, mostly late notched point forms e.g. Chesser and Lowe. Woods site 950-1150 B.P., sharp increase in maize, mostly late triangular points like Levanna, Madison, Hamilton. Some overlap, but neither has small side-notched forms. Uses Thomas 1978 discriminant function to classify points as either arrow or dart. Discusses problems with this method. All of the triangular, and most of the notched points, especially from later Woods site, are classed as arrow points. Alternatives: at introduction of bow (somewhat earlier than believed), stemmed/notched points diverged into two uses, or Thomas model misclassifies some dart points as arrows (because based on small sample of darts), and because larger notched forms more likely to be reduced in size by damage and resharpening.
Ethnographic data questions assumption that bow and arrow is more efficient than spear hunting – more likely complementary. Hard to judge from experiments whether bow more efficient or effective than atlatl.
Shott, Michael J.
1997 Stones and Shafts Redux: The Metric Discrimination of Chipped-Stone Dart and Arrow Points. American Antiquity 62(1):86-101.
Extends Thomas 1978 approach to classifying points as atlatl dart or arrow (using discriminant function based on ethnographic and archaeological specimens) by increasing the sample of darts (Thomas had few) and rate of successful classification.
Shoulder width of points turns out to be the most important variable for discriminating between arrow and dart points.
Arguments by Odell for Archaic flake arrow points and by Amick and Patterson for Paleoindian bows briefly discussed.
Shott, Michael J.
2002 Weibull Estimation of Use-Life Distribution in Experimental Spear-Point Data. Lithic Technology 27(2):93-109.
Statistical technique applied to distribution of failure rates in samples of experimental points suggest that in small points, failure rates are related to chance breakage, but heavier points with more obtuse angles survive better because they resist chance breakage and use-life relates more to cumulative attrition. Small sample of published data (3) with numbers of throws for individual points, varying techniques and goals, and differing materials.
Shriver, Phillip R.
1983 The Expanded Center "Gorget": A Late Adena Bar Atlatl Weight. Ohio Archaeologist 33(4):4-8.
Contextual evidence from burials that these are not ornaments, but atlatl weights, diagnostic of Late Adena.
Shriver, Phillip R.
1990 Conventional Wisdom and Archaic Atlatl Weights. Ohio Archaeologist 40(4):8-9
Conventional wisdom is that E. Archaic saw introduction of atlatl and weights, which give much more power.
Brief summary of Webb's work at Indian Knoll - Webb reconstructed atlatl with tubular weight at hook end. Indian Knoll also had bar atlatl weights, as do other sites. Probably are weights, but our ideas change. [Point of this article is not clear.]
Silva, R. Jane
1999 Cienega Points and Late Archaic Period Chronology in the Southern Southwest. Kiva 64(3):339-367.
AZ sites, Late Archaic San Pedro and Cienega Phases, with similarly named points. SP pts large, Cienega pts small, both cornernotched. Defines 4 subtypes of Cienega pts. Different size, different techniques (pressure) Thomas/Shott formulae show smaller ones are probably arrow points, in use by 800 BC.
[Points are different, but it’s dangerous to identify bow and arrow only on that basis. Her attempts to see fluctuating popularity of atlatl and bow are not based on adequate dates or point samples. Best she can really say is that large and small points coexist at least after Cienega phase.]
Sims, Toni S.
1987 Atlatl Weights from Intermountain Locales in Montana. Archaeology in Montana 28(1):69-71.
2 grooved oblongs, Neuman Class I, probably associated with Pelican Lake and Besant points.
1999 Spears, Spear Throwers, Boomerangs, and Arrows. Experiment in Archaeology No. 1: 21-22. Newsletter for Experimental Archaeology, Lydney, Gloucestershire, UK.
Experiences of a class. Crude spears and spear throwers, achieved 30 m throw with 250 gm spear 130 cm long . [Not very useful.]
Spencer, Baldwin and F. J. Gillen
1938 The Native Tribes of Central Australia. MacMillan and Co. Ltd, London.
Old fashioned ethnography, focus on ritual life. Spear throwers [woomera scoop type] discussed. Hunting (p.20): skill varies, but “takes an exceptionally good man to kill or disable at more than 20 yards.” Two blurry photos of throwing. Butchery: flint at end of spear thrower used. P.28 spear thrower described, “most useful single thing the native has.” Hollowed out piece of mulga, 2 ft to 2’6” long, tapers to narrow handle with lump of resin holding sharp flint or quartzite, other end blunt point with sharp bit of wood fastened with tendon, fits into hole in end of spear. Ordinary spear 10’ long, Tecoma wood, with mulga tip spliced on and bound with tendon, some with additional attached barb.
More details p. 574 ff. Different kinds of spears, some with barbed wood heads, or stone flake heads, some with reed shafts. Wood shaft, stone tip specimen 2.89 m, 538 gm. Cane shaft, stone tip specimen 3.13 m, 397 gm. Wood shaft, barbed wood point specimen 3.12 m, 340 gm. [Examples, others given, similar]. Three types spear-throwers among various central tribes (photo): 1. “Wanmyia” [lathe type] flattened stick 105 cm long, 4.8 wide at grip, finger notch, hook attached with resin and string. 2. Nulliga of Wambia tribe [stick type] smooth round stick 87 cm long, hook attached with resin and string, large tassel at handle. 3. “Amera” of Arunta, Urabunna, Luritcha, and Ilpirra tribes (whites call Wommera) as described earlier. Used for bowl, cutting tool, making fire (by rubbing edges on shield), musical instrument. Rarely decorated.
1974 Replicative Experiments in the Manufacture and Use of a Great Basin Atlatl. In Great Basin Atlatl Studies, R.F. Heizer ed., 37‑60, figures 13‑19. Ramona: Ballena Press.
Using stone tools, replicates a NV atlatl with weight. See Hester 1974 (site NV‑WA‑197).
Detailed description and evaluation of manufacture, some throwing experiments. [Good paper.]
1979 Bison Kill by Ice Age Hunters. National Geographic 155(1):114-121.
Multiple exposure photo shows Stanford throwing. [Appears to be a distance throw, starts with atlatl and dart down by hip, dart leaves at high angle. He uses full overhead motion with torso rotation and wrist flick. Other photo show an Arctic-like atlatl and long foreshafted dart.]
Stirling, Matthew W.
1960 The Use of the Atlatl on Lake Patzcuaro, Michoacan. Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 173:265-268. Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C. (also excerpted with good illustrations in The Cast Fall/Winter 2000;13-15)
1944 expedition, photos in article (also color motion-picture made).
Tarascan word: "phatamu".
Atlatl survived in "most civilized regions" = Peru, MesoAmerica, because hunting less important, didn't need bow. Also maybe superior in warfare.
Like Eskimo, Tarascans use to hunt aquatic birds, throwing multipronged spear into rising flock.
Reed spear shaft, 9' long, steel prong tip.
Atlatl 24" long, wood, rigid, grooved with integral spur, hook on back for retrieving birds, two finger holes.
Stockel, H. Henrietta
1995 The Lightning Stick: Arrows, Wounds, and Indian Legends. University of Nevada Press, Reno.
Arrows and symbolism. [Collects some old, hard to find ethnographic accounts of archery, and medical accounts of wounds. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have any understanding of how bows are made and used, and her atlatl knowledge is even worse. Page 41: “The atlatl dart – the forerunner of the arrow, according to Peckham - fit snugly, attached to a foreshaft, into a spear’s mainshaft. Often these dart throwers were as much as fourteen feet long, especially in the SW, where Spanish influence was strong.” Page 16: The Commanches and Pawnees carried lances that resembled the atlatls of old – tips of swords inserted into wooden handles.”]
1992 A propos de l'emmanchement des propulseurs au Paleolithique Superieur. In Le Peuplement Magdalenien: Paleogeographie Physique et Humaine. J-P. Rigaud, H. Laville, B. Vandermeersch eds., pp 317-331. Comite des Travaux Historiques et Scientifiques, Paris.
[‘Concerning the hafting of spearthrowers in the Upper Paleolithic’].
Paleolithic spearthrowers are not complete, the antler hook ends were made to haft in wooden handles, in several ways. Some finely carved.
Dates from late Solutrean to Magdalenian V, most Magdalenian IV.
Eight complete specimens: 10-30 cm long, too short compared to ethnographic.
Round perforated examples could haft in socket but too much work, more likely in groove, lashed on through holes.
Some short specimens merely beveled, glued and lashed to beveled wood.
[Good photos of how he did it]. Trials show durability.
1993 Zur Technologie der jungpalaolithischen Speerschleuder: Eine Studie auf der Basis archaologischer, ethnologischer, und experimenteller Erkenntnisse. (The Technology of the Upper Paleolithic Spearthrower: A Study Based on Archaeological, Ethnological, and Experimental Data). Verlag Archaeologica Venatoria: Tubingen.
[A magnificent book, lots of information and illustrations of all kinds of atlatls, including famous Upper Paleolithic ones, and details of Stodiek’s reconstructions and experiments. From my point of view, too bad it’s in German, and now out of print. Someone should publish a full translation. See Street 1994 for information from his translation of the summary.]
Sections on spear throwers (Speerschleudern) with color pictures of reconstructions of Upper Paleolithic examples, and European competitions.
1994 Translation of the summary of the Doctorate thesis of Ulrich Stodiek, "Zur Technologie der jungpalaolithischen Speerschleuder." The Atlatl 7(4):1-5
Ethnographic survey, size ranges.
Australian info: successful hunting range 10-30 m.
Upper Paleolithic archaeological survey: 123 specimens of hook ends [which include the famous animal carvings, and some pieces considered by others to be complete].
Two hook types: hook, and hook + groove.
Surviving pieces are too short to be complete, would be part of more complex tool.
Reconstructions and experiments performed: Needed fletching on pine shafts with antler points. Flexibility of spear affects system. Max distance with reconstructions 180.9 m. Bow vs atlatl experiments: arrow 40-50% more velocity, 1/17 the time to launch. Spear 60-70% more kinetic energy because heavier (90 gm).
Penetration of bison carcass poor with atlatl and antler point (10cm), better with lithic points. Bone points survive damage better than stone.
Strehlow, T. G. H.
1964 The Art of Circle, Line, and Square. In Australian Aboriginal Art, edited by Ronald Berndt, pp. 44-59. The Macmillan Company, New York.
Illustrates and explains designs on a woomera type spearthrower as example of Western Australian art. “The Central Australian curved and circular figures were stylized representations of marks or tracks on the ground…painted or incised as individual figures… with empty spaces left between them. The Western Australian angular and straight-line figures, on the other hand were combined into patterns that covered practically every inch of the surface. They do not seem to represent marks or tracks on the ground, but to be heavily stylized drawing of the actual objects themselves.” Two 1933 Pintubi spearthrowers represent storms with wind and floods. [Why those designs on spearthrowers? Not explained]
1995 Atlatl Elbow, or How to Kill Yourself Before You Kill Your Mammoth. The Atlatl 8(3): 2-3
Theories of atlatl weight use discussed, favors weights to reduce side-to-side wobble of atlatl during throw.
Got real sore from using heavy weights, recommends no more than 2-3 oz.
1996 Atlatl Weight Function. Ohio Archaeologist 46(1):32-39.
[Useful article], considers many variables in accuracy and distance: theories of atlatl weight functions, body motion and casting styles, atlatl grip styles, problems affecting throws.
Experiments with lots of variables [not very systematically], concludes: Heavy weights no good, they slow throw, damage arm. Moderate weights increase accuracy by helping prevent spur end of atlatl from being pushed to side as dart flexes. On light flexible atlatls, small weight may increase flex of atlatl and stored energy, and tunes atlatl flex to that of dart.
1997 Dart Construction and Design. The Atlatl 10(2):7-8; 10(3):3-4, 10(4):8-10.
Recommends only slight flex to store energy, too much destroys accuracy, especially at distances where harder throw needed.
Uses bamboo or cane approximately 6 foot long.
Can shorten or stiffen to reduce flex, want weight a bit forward of center.
Uniform diameter milled lumber darts with even flex not as good as weight-forward darts with larger forward diameter.
1998 Aluminum Darts. The Dart 3(2):2-3.
Add dowl inside tip end - stiffens and weights so control flex.
1998 Strischek's Atlatl. The Dart 3(2):3-4.
Describes + pictures his odd atlatl with dart rest and finger pegs. [Not like anything ethnographic or prehistoric, but works well.]
1999 Atlatl Spurs. The Atlatl 12(1):8-12.
1999 Atlatl Spurs. Bulletin of Primitive Technology 18:70-73.
Recommends spurs for different purposes. Spurs at angle (30 degrees) to shaft provide initial lift to point of dart, as does curved-down end of atlatl. Horizontal spurs don't. Curved up atlatl end drives dart point down. End of dart "rides on" spur most of throw, need flat surface on spur to prevent slipping off to side or snagging of end of dart.
1999 Atlatl Darts. Unpublished manuscript.
Basic dart principles and manufacture of cane, wood, and aluminum shafts.
1999 Ray Strischek's Tips for Making A Good Dart for the WAA ISAC Contests. The Dart 4(1): 5-7.
Emphasis on importance of balance point being forward of center.
2000 Atlatl and Dart Do It Tips for the New Season. The Dart March 2000: 9-12.
2000 Atlatl and Dart Tips for the New Season. The Atlatl 13(3):3-5.
Useful basic instruction/tips on equipment and use.
2000 Ray Strischek’s Atlatl. The Dart July 2000:17-18.
Why Ray uses a flexible, weighted atlatl with an ergonomic peg grip.
2001 The Pull, Push/Lever, Wrist Flick Action of the Atlatl in Motion. The Dart November 2001: 26.
Describes motion with schematic drawings: First, horizontal pulling of the dart, then hand pushes forward and levers atlatl spur up, followed by flick of wrist which accounts for 50% of force, after atlatl passes the vertical position. Spur contact only at beginning [but then how does atlatl apply force to spear, especially in wrist flick part of throw? Needs closer look at slow motion films].
2002 How to Use the Atlatl and Dart. The Dart August 2002: 20-21.
“Pull, push/lever, flick.” Don’t bend over. Keep elbow above shoulder.
1966 The McClure Atlatls. Screenings 15(5):1-4.
[Rather incoherent descriptions]. Two atlatls from packrat nest in looted cave, Columbia River area. Wood, integral mixed hook, 15 inches long, flat blade shape, attached double finger loops of antler or horn, stone weight 40.2 gm set in socket. Second similar, larger, >21 inches, missing both ends, socket but missing stone.
Swanton, John R.
1938 Historic Use of the Spear-Thrower in Southeastern North America. American Antiquity 3(4): 356-358.
Spanish text and translation from G. de la Vega account of de Soto expedition of 1543 to Florida in area of later Chitimacha, mouth of Mississippi River.
Three-barbed dart from "bohordo" through thigh of Spaniard, weapon "like in Peru" 2 tercias long, made of "firm rush" like the darts, shoots with "extreme force"
"pass through man in mail coat." "Spaniards in Peru feared this weapon more than any other the Indians had."
Tankersley, Kenneth B.
1994 Clovis Mastic and its Hafting Implications. Journal of Archaeological Science 21:117-124.
Amber used as hafting mastic, recognized on obsidian Clovis point, surface find, Oregon. [Actually this is the "Fenn Cache" so CO?]
Insoluble in organic solvents except xylene, microscopically similar to amber.
Longitudinal scratches in flute - to improve grip of mastic and bone foreshaft, especially useful on slippery obsidian.
Amber is not as sticky as resin, but will melt, and can be found where there are no living conifers.
[But that shouldn't have been a problem. Much more likely this is resin that became amber in the 12,000 years since its use. Incidentally this also provides support for the Fenn specimens – unlikely to have faked hafting scratches and resin that became amber.]
Tankersley, Kenneth B.
2002 In Search of Ice Age Americans. Gibbs Smith, Publisher, Salt Lake City.
Personal account of some Clovis research (Crook County and other caches, Sunrise Ochre Mine) with background on Clovis. Generally nice popular archaeology but with too many sloppy errors and collector emphasis.
Atlatls (p.80): “Atlatl darts can be launched from either the side of the body or over the shoulder. An atlatl dart is an accurate and deadly weapon when launched with a snap of the wrist from the side, but only at a distance of seven to eight feet. While an over-the-shoulder throw significantly increases the dart’s range, it loses accuracy, speed, and penetration power. Also, long distance throws require more release time and space. However the dart was thrown, hunting with the atlatl would have been done in open environments.” [Almost all of that is wrong or misleading – why didn’t he try one, or consult someone who has?]
1987 Survival with the Atlatl. Aurora: Tate Enterprises.
Short general "how to" and description of manufacture.
1990 Atlatl Weights. The Atlatl 3(2): 3-6.
Long flattened weights from Colorado.
1995 Evidence for Atlatls at Rancho La Brea. The Atlatl 8(4): 1-3.
1 bunt, 3 fire hardened wooden points, references, [dark] photos.
C14 = 4450+200 B.P.
1995 Long Distance Record Shattered. The Atlatl 8(3):1-2
July 1995, Dave Engvall 848'6 5/8" (258.64 m).
1997 Jeffers Petroglyphs, Bingham Lake, Minnesota. The Atlatl 10(2):1-2.
Clear atlatl depictions with large rectangular weights - could be catlinite, large for weights, could be flat surface (bark, feathers) to slow cast - need tests. [Look like Indian Knoll style drilled weights to me, depicted exaggeratedly large.]
1997 Spear Hunting Legal in Alabama. The Atlatl 10(4):3-4
How Alabama got legal spear and atlatl hunting for deer and boar.
1998 First Contact. The Atlatl 11(4):1-4.
Eight Americans visited European atlatl events July 1998 (R.Richard, C.Brown, J.Ray, B. Tate, M. Tate, P. Pine, L.Pine).
2000 Y2K Elections. The Atlatl 13(2):5-6.
Biographical info on J. Ray, R. Strischek, R. Mertz, M. Takoch, D. Pritchard, A. Lukes, C. Judson, S. Brown.
2002 One of WAA’s Founders Dies. The Atlatl 15(4):3
Charles Lilly of CO helped found WAA, organize Valley of Fire event, starting 1989.
Taylor, Herbert C. and Warren Caldwell
1954 Carved Atlatl from Northwest Coast. American Antiquity 19(3): 279-280.
Dredged from mouth Skagit River, WA. Looks old, but not like NW art, resembles MesoAmerican, probably not fake, maybe lost, drifted in? Further tests proposed.
[Were there any? Poor photo and minimal description shows what looks like one-piece wood atlatl with finger holes like Mexican, carving just forward of grip on bottom looks like dragon or feathered serpent holding mask.]
[Fladmark et al. (1987), Bruchert (1999), Borden (1969) accept as NW; Fladmark dated 1700+100 B.P. and has best picture and description, also good picture in Ames and Maschner 1999:236.]
Thomas, David Hurst
1978 Arrowheads and Atlatl Darts: How the Stones Got the Shaft. American Antiquity 43(3): 461-472.
Looks at ethnographic and archaeological hafted points to determine relationship between shaft diameter and stem of point, derives formulae to separate atlatl dart points from arrow points, [but his sample of atlatl darts is very small (10)].
Tolley, Arthur Robert, and Jack Barnes
1979 Reinventing the Atlatl. Journal of the Steward Anthropological Society 10(2): 161-180.
Experiments with lots of variables [controlled and un]: fletched and unfletched darts, lengths 127-232 cm, compound elderberry shaft with hardwood foreshaft, lead points, 10 atlatls of different lengths, some modeled after several ethnographic and archaeological examples, stone weights 27-94 grams, mostly at balance point of atlatl. [All atlatls apparently not flexible.]
Lots of practice over 5 months, 10-60 meters.
High speed filming of throwing action, drawing presented.
Gauge for relative force [not calibrated].
Results: Dart construction more important in distance than length or form of atlatl. Any atlatl >30 cm worked, but not well if <2/3 dart length. Accurate, with practice, to 30 m. Dart flex important [but why is not discussed]. Dart released when atlatl is vertical, contra Howard 1974. Velocity ca 40 m/sec. Weights do not affect distance, or improve control or balance, and don't add either to mass of spear or to its velocity, so they do not add force.
Tuohy, Donald R.
1982 Another Great Basin Atlatl with Dart Foreshafts and Other Artifacts: Implications and Ramifications. Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology 4(2): 80-106.
Material from looted SE NV cave: atlatl, foreshafts, 2 pts, snare parts etc.
Complete atlatl, Basketmaker type with mixed groove and elevated hook, finger loops. Ca. 54 cm L, 2 cm W, 1 cm T, weighs 58 gm plus stone weight attached to upper side weighs 30 gm. Probably curved to let dart clear weight.
Discusses Elko point dates, atlatl maybe 100BC-400AD because similar to Basketmaker atlatls.
Elko point on foreshaft- stem is .9cm wider than shaft, so Thomas 1978 formula for arrow vs dart points not good.
Atlatl type distributions discussed.
2000 The Atlatl: Primitive Weapon of the Stone Age. Privately published and distributed.
Booklet, 62 pages. Good detail and photos of building atlatl, although focus on Basketmaker type which is more difficult for beginner, dart making, useful tips on use.
1909 Peruvian Throwing Sticks. American Anthropologist, n.s. 11:624-627. (Reprinted in The Cast Spring 2001:14-16.
Eighteen atlatls from Chavina, costal burial site, "early Ica/Nazca" [now called Chavin]. All similar, 44-53 cm, ornamented carved hooks of copper, bone, wood.
At handle end, larger "hook" [= grip, deflection wing, dart rest?? - illustration too dark to tell], generally points back toward distal end hook.
1965 Le Baton de Commandement. Man 65(143):140-143.
[Odd article, not very useful. Begins with irrelevant and muddled rant on failure of science to recognize art and the subjective.] By labeling baton de commandement a "magic" object, its function was ignored. Not magic, not shaft straightener. Early cave art (Altamira) static, while later (Lascaux) dynamic, reflecting new weapon: baton as spear thrower. Holes comparable to grips on Eskimo versions, but Eskimo are wood, cruder, throw larger spear. [Illustrations show his reconstructions and possible grips. They probably would work at least some, but he added hooks for which there is no evidence, especially given that we do have clear and quite different Upper Paleolithic atlatls. It is not clear that he really experimented effectively or knows much about atlatls.]
Van Arsdale, Scotty
1999 Rookie Ramblings. Indian Artifact Magazine 18(1):10, 72.
Experiences at atlatl competitions 1998.
Van Arsdale, Scot
2000 First Modern Day Atlatl Accident Reported. Indian Artifact Magazine 19(3):22
Stupid 12 year old, only slight injury.
1998 In Search of the Optimal Dart. The Atlatl 11(2):3-6.
Some personal thoughts. Darts need forward center of gravity, center of pressure behind that (either adding fletching to rear or weight to front), and appropriate spine flexing. Stiff tip, flexible tail recommended. Need a standard measurement for spine. Proposes pressure on tail needed to bend dart, measured by standing vertically on postal scale. Suggests questionnaire to collect info.
1998 The Atlatl and Dart. Unpublished MA thesis, Anthropology Dept, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
[A very good study, well written, the most thorough work in English. He covers the available literature in detail, and also relies on his own experiments and experience of Madden, Strischek, and Chauvaux.]
Begins with ethnographic information on Arctic and Australian atlatls with good references, distribution of types, reports of use. Chapter 4 is History of Experimentation, good summaries. Chapter 5: The Motion. Differences are between short range accuracy throw and longer throw for distance.
Short throw with light dart needs just arm and shoulder, cites Raymond film showing dart + atlatl tip move in straight line throwing at 20 m target, with slight raise of atlatl tip as atlatl handle rotated downward. Atlatl moves 90 degrees to the ground [he means straight over].
Heavy dart, longer distance needs torso rotation + weight shift, resembles baseball throw, atlatl moves 45-60 degrees [meaning sidearm motion as shown in his ethnographic photo]. Notes some Eskimo underhand/sidearm throw to skim water for birds (Nelson 1899). [But it’s still a bad way to throw.] Dart moves in straight line (Stanford 1979 photos), except Engvall’s distance throw with sidenock dart.
Overhand throw reduces side to side dispersion of dart, while crossbody throw tends to disperse upper R to lower L . Sidearm darts strike in horizontal line across target [optimistically!].
Describes accuracy throw: atlatl and dart held horizontal at shoulder height, hand behind body, feet 30 degrees to target, L foot advanced. Atlatl drawn back, then propelled by torso rotation and weight shift to leading foot. Enough weight shift to forward leg to lower body slightly, allowing atlatl to rotate forward but maintain flat trajectory with spur end. [This is actually very bad form, and his major practical and theoretical flaw – a full overhead motion of the atlatl is much more effective, and not just for distance.] Start smooth, end with wrist snap.
Three handle styles: stick (Aust, N. Guinea, N. + S. Am., Up. Pal. Euro.) , central hole (Arctic, N. Pacific, Carribean, Amazon), double hole (N. Am., MesoAm.) – affect wrist. Stick uses hammer grip, dart held by thumb + index or middle finger. Central hole is for index finger, thumb and opposing fingers around grip also hold dart. Two holes for index and middle finger – as some Basketmaker style. New Guinea and S. American also developed side piece to help hold dart by thumb pressure.
Chapter 6: The Atlatl. Longer atlatl lengthens throwing lever of hand and forearm for more energy to spear. Optimal relation of atlatl length to spear length is around 1:3. Rotation of the atlatl moves the dart base out of line of the dart’s trajectory, and amplitude of oscillation should match time taken by atlatl rotation. So longer atlatl requires more dart flex. [I don’t think the oscillation timing is important here, but greater length aids flex, so longer atlatl will be best with longer dart.]
Atlatl weights. Other theories cited, then flex of atlatl and tuning to dart flex. Actually it most likely dampens sideways movement of atlatl shaft for increase smoothness and accuracy of throw. [Right] Atlatl flex is not important – ethnographic and experiments show. [Right again]
Chapter 7: The Dart Many variables affect performance: material, length, diameter, weight, taper, center of balance, center of pressure, mass distribution, locations of greatest stiffness and flex, spine weight, point weight and length, foreshaft, fletching type and location. Dart more critical than atlatl. Flex: spine should match thrust. [In summarizing experiments, he seems to accept idea that flexing dart acts as spring to increase dart velocity, which is wrong, but here he correctly discusses flex for accuracy.] Compare to bow: string pushes arrow toward center of bow, must flex around bow – archer’s paradox. Dart bent by atlatl rotation, in same plane as atlatl, spine should curve up or down in same plane too. Longer darts may be more accurate. Easier to aim, easier judgment of spine. Arrow balance point usually 25-35% from tip, Australian spears more often 40-48% (Cundy 1989). Center of pressure [not well defined] should be behind center of gravity. Fletching moves c of p back, but not all darts need fletching. Spine is important but hard to measure, and wide range appears to work. Location of flex is important – tail should flex more than tip. Modern parallel sided same-diameter shafts have poor center of gravity and bend uniformly along length. Tapered shaft is better. But oscillations can be simple or complex with two different nodes, which is why a spliced dart of two same diameter segments still works – splice isolates tail flex. Front third of dart should be stiff – if it oscillates, not accurate.
Chapter 8: Accuracy, Power, Speed. Accuracy is better practical measure of effectiveness than range. Cites ethnographic accounts ranging from 20 to 60 yards. WAA ISAC developed 1996.
Distance records. Ethnographic accounts and modern experiments variable, from 40-130 m. Wayne Brian record 1993 modern gear 210.31 m, 1994 primitive gear 177.17 m. David Engvall 1995 258.64m with “Off-Axis-Forward-Nock spear. Arrow flights: Ishi 183 m, British longbow practice at 200 m.
Penetration – affected by point as well as force of throw and weight of dart. Lists some experiments.
Speed: probably aim and throw almost as fast as bow and arrow. [I doubt it, much more complex motion] Velocity: cites various dart records.
Vaughan, Thomas, and Bill Holm
1982 Soft Gold: The Fur Trade and Cultural Exchange on the Northwest Coast of America. Oregon Historical Society.
Artifacts from fur trade era (1700-1900) in Harvard Peabody Museum and elsewhere. Four Tlingit atlatls, wood, highly decorated, single central hole for forefinger, groove and “shelf” to engage butt of dart [this side not pictured, so can’t tell what it’s like.] “All highly decorated but uncomfortable to hold and use compared to the totally functional, no-frills throwing sticks of the Eskimo.” [Not a good description of many Eskimo atlatls, but probably right about non-functional nature of these – thick and short (finger hole is almost in middle) with lots of carving on handle]. Ornament comparable to that on shamans’ rattles, “not obviously related to hunting or the prey sought with atlatls, such as seals and sea otters.” Collected in the early 1800s.
2000 Aboriginal Olympics: From Boomerangs to Woomeras. Discovery Channel News Sept 28, 2000. Accessed on web http://www.discovery.com/news/features
Aboriginal athletic “sports carnivals” include boomerang and woomera (or miru) competition. [Poorly described] but “spearthrowing skills are still highly valued in the aboriginal community.” [No location given, but short film clip on web shows men using woomera Central Australia type atlatl with long spear, details not clear. They hold it flat, not sideways, use straight overarm motion at stuffed cloth kangaroo target maybe 20-30 m away. Hard to see, but accuracy doesn’t look impressive, and at least one spear can be seen bouncing off target.]
1994 Southeastern Rivercane Arrow Notes. Bulletin of Primitive Technology. 7(1):59‑61
Cane arrow shaft making.
1999 Prehistoric Archery – Some Considerations. Experiment in Archaeology No. 1: 6-9. Newsletter for Experimental Archaeology, Lydney, Gloucestershire, UK.
Mesolithic bows of two types: stick bow, bends in complete arc, breaks at grip; handle reinforced bow, bends in restricted arc, breaks at end of limbs. Both found archaeologically in Mesolithic. Tend to have archaeological finds of heavy bows from wet lowlands sites, light arrows from upland sites – they should not go together.
1999 The Design, Dimensions, and Weight of Spear-Throwers and Spears. Experiment in Archaeology No. 1: 30-32. Newsletter for Experimental Archaeology, Lydney, Gloucestershire, UK.
Experimented with French Paleolithic and Innuit forms. Double the throwing distance of hand throw. Suggests 3:1 ratio of spear length to atlatl length. [He had information from Musee de Malgre Tout 1994, but is still behind current standards of atlatl knowledge].
Webb, William S.
1946 Indian Knoll, Site Oh 2, Ohio County, Kentucky. University of Kentucky Reports in Anthropology and Archaeology Vol. IV, No. 3, part 1.
Classic report of Archaic shell mound.
Many burials (male, female, and children) with atlatls or parts.
Compound atlatl: antler handle + hook, stone or shell weight on wooden shaft.
Found in alignment in burials, some intentionally destroyed.
Bodies with points in them common.
Webb, William S.
1957 The Development of the Spearthrower. University of Kentucky Occasional Papers in Anthropology No. 2, reprinted 1981
Reviews world atlatl types: most forms rigid, they increase length of arm.
Paleolithic "weighted" forms (large carving with hook) are as inflexible as straight "unweighted" ones, so no advantage.
Atlatl's importance in Archaic explains why is treated ceremonially in burials, but weights are not "bannerstones".
Changes from 4000-1500 BC led to greater efficiency.
Archaic and Basketmaker atlatls are "elastic devices for transferring momentum to projectile".
Atlatl physics compared to pendulum or bat and ball - weight brings "center of percussion" (mass for most effective transfer of energy) as close to hook as possible. [Webb seems to consider length or flex of spear irrelevant. No mention anywhere of him experimenting with actual atlatls, and the weight as he reconstructs it at end of atlatl near hook is very inefficient – his center of percussion idea makes no sense – an atlatl is not a club, and more weight on the end does not transfer force to the dart.]
Associations in Archaic graves indicate atlatl shaft some 25", with hook and handle >30", weights indicate flexible atlatl.
Antler handles flare for good grip necessary as transfers force to spear.
Earliest shell midden levels have only bone points, assume all-wood atlatl.
Basketmaker atlatl weight 56 grams near middle, loops for grip.
Archaic: Bar weights earliest, most through time, often in graves with no other atlatl parts (= wooden atlatl). Four examples L = 9-13 cm, Wt = 65-87 gm.
Later add antler hook, several types and attachments, some too long for efficiency - remove hook too far from center of percussion.
Then drilled prismatic weights to go with short antler hook. Temporal order: straight sided, constricted centers, expanded centers, shell section weights, butterfly winged forms.
Indian Knoll area center of development, site dates C14 5300+300 B.P.
Later hooks - short conical antler segments with spur on rim, also "geniculate" weights, and prismoidal weight with hook cut in stone - all to get weight + center of percussion as close to hook as possible [My own experiment with Indian Knoll type atlatl with stone weight convinced me that weight near hook was impossible - made motion far too slow.]
Prismoidal weights usually 7-8 cm long, 50-85 grams. [Seems too light for size of weights.]
Depth distributions of atlatl parts to indicate chronology at Indian Knoll and Annis Shell Midden sites [but stratigraphy too crude to trust this info].
Complains that "bannerstone" idea from collectors interested in objects, not knowledge, complains about looting and faking back to 1930s and earlier.
Grave associations, parts drilled similarly and in alignment prove weight theory [but he doesn't illustrate any or compare hole diameters of any sets].
Webster, Gary S.
1980 Recent Data Bearing on the Question of the Origins of the Bow and Arrow in the Great Basin. American Antiquity 45(1):63-66.
Conventional date for Fremont introduction of bow and arrow is 1500 BP.
Dry Creek Rockshelter stratigraphic info shows Rose Spring/Eastgate [assumed to be] arrowpoints as early as 3300 BP, mixed with atlatl points (Elko, Pinto etc), so bow early, did not immediately supplant atlatl. [Point sizes should be considered only weak evidence].
1992 Crashing the Unreachable 500 Foot Barrier. Bulletin of Primitive Technology 1(4):76.
Distance records by Wayne Brian: 616'11.5" on record, personal best 664'.
Whippy flyrod atlatl, "tuned" with weight, unfletched 50" aluminum dart.
Whitehead, Ralph H.
1936 The Birdstone and its Probable Use. American Antiquity 2(2): 134-136.
Miscellaneous theories noted: womans headgear, shaman's gear, hunt fetish.
Common in lake states, near water, so how about canoe prow ornament?
Iroquois/Algonkian? - not in earlier moundbuilder graves.
[W.Ritchie in letter next issue correctly dismisses Iroquois idea, says birdstones are earlier.]
1997 Translation of a Late Basketmaker Rock Art Panel. The Atlatl 10(2):5.
Illustrated humorous poem.
1998 The Meanings of Atlatls? Robert Hall's Archaeology of the Soul. The Atlatl 11(2):2-3.
Hall (1997) in one chapter argues that atlatls are symbolically connected to courting flutes and calumet pipes, but bases his arguments on vague, ambiguous, and widely separated examples of symbols used by a variety of cultures.
1999 Why the World Needs WAA. The Atlatl 12(4):13.
Errors in a book by Stockel (1995).
2003 Atlatl Elbow: Anatomy and Archaeology. The Atlatl 16(1):16-18.
Describes shoulder and elbow anatomy and injury from atlatl use, and archaeological attempts to interpret skeletal pathology as resulting from atlatl use.
2002 Atlatls for Teaching and Sport. Anthropology News 43(4):26.
2002 Atlatls and Public Prehistory. ACPAC Newsletter. July 2002:1.
Atlatls are good for hands-on teaching of primitive technology, and interaction with an interested public.
1993 Bannerstones: Two Cents More. The Atlatl 6(3): 4-6
Annecdotes, metal weights taped on for experiments, weights behind fletching work well.
1968 Value Systems and Trade Cycles of the Late Archaic in the Midwest. In New Perspectives in Archeology. S. Binford and L. Binford, eds., pp. 175-222. Aldine, Chicago.
[An archaeological classic, early attempt to be explicit about how we can get social information from burials, but long and laborious.] Indian Knoll, Archaic site in KY, 2500-2000 BC (see Webb 1946, 1957) is one of main sites considered.
Why are there atlatls, which are predominantly associated with males, also in female graves at Indian Knoll? Probably not just ceremonial artifact – they show use-wear. Probably not “a platoon of Amazons.” Possibly “transfer of corporate estate” having nothing to do with sex of individual. “Or perhaps some women were hunters of one type of game or another.” “All that can be concluded is that the roles of females overlapped those of males in some way, leading to occasional association with them of a weapon one would expect a priori to be a symbol of male activities.” [See Doucette 2001]
1937 Atlatl Dart Foreshafts from the La Brea Pits. Bulletin of the California Academy of Sciences 36(2):41-60.
Man now proven to have existed with Pleistocene mammals – how late did they survive? Pit 10 human skull and pit 61-67 artifacts – how old? Most artifacts of late types, except 4 foreshafts. One “bunt” with conical end to fit shaft, thick blunt point, 5 inches long. Three fragments of foreshafts for stone points, 3-6 inches, notch for point broken off, pointed proximal ends [photographs]. Compares others, with photos: 6 San Juan Co. Basketmaker with stone points, 4 more unfinished foreshafts – La Brea are heavier. No stratigraphy, but foreshafts suggest early atlatl using folk, other artifacts later.
Describes Santa Barbara (1792) atlatl – “odd, stubby, 6-inches long” with bone hook, compares to Tarascan type. No Spanish historical record of atlatl among CA Indians. Also a 1792 foreshaft, but appears to be harpoon, not for atlatl. Maybe “memory” or “vestigial remnant” of older atlatl use in California.
Zollikofer, C., M. Ponce de Leon, B. Vandermeersch, and F. Leveque
2002 Evidence for interpersonal violence in the St. Cesaire Neanderthal. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 99(9):6444-6448.
A French find of a Neanderthal partial skeleton, associated with Chatelperronian [early Upper Paleolithic] tools, thermoluminescence dated to ca. 36,000 B.P. Shows a healing cranial injury, consistent with an impact wound from a sharp instrument. Could be accidental, but on top of head, so unlikely. Most ethnographic violence takes place within the group. Most likely shows 1) conflict among Neanderthals 2) using tools (presumably hafted hunting spears, which we know they had) as weapons, and 3) care of severely injured members of the group. [I include this because although it is earlier than any known spear thrower finds, it is during the period of coexistence of Neanderthals and Early Modern Humans, and someone will surely use it to argue for conflict between them, even though we can never really know. Unfortunately written in unnecessary awful jargon.]