Published on March 17, 2013 by Carol
The Atl-atl, or spear thrower, was a technological breakthrough as important to ancient man as the invention of the gun was to our more recent ancestors. The image is a depiction of a hunter using an atl-atl. The Atl-atl is a repeating spear and the handle acts as a lever that allows the user to throw a lighter spear at a great distance with far more accuracy.
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The long shaft that is propelled from the atlatl handle is called the dart. River cane was used frequently in making these darts and they often attained a length of 6 or 7 feet long. The flint points are attached to a hard wood or bone smaller shaft called a foreshaft, which in turn is inserted into a hollow socket on the river cane dart. These foreshafts were not attached permanently and would detach from the main atlatl spear shaft and stay in the animal or target they struck. The atlatl dart could then be picked up and another foreshaft quickly inserted for another shot. By using a two-piece spear, the Native Americans could carry many of the small foreshafts while hunting and only need to carry one of the long dart shafts. This gave the convenience of multiple shots in an easy to carry package. The atlatl was in essence a repeating spear and is a classic example of early mans ingenuity.
Source: Museum of Native America