Saturday, January 19, 2019

The Atlatl

The throwing stick was invented about 30,000 years ago. It extends the arm giving force (as range and speed) to a spear. Used widely across North and South America, it also is known from Europe, but more widely throughout Indonesia and Australia. The Aborigines call it the woomera and it can be the core of a “Swiss Army Knife” that serves many purposes.  
A Dog named “Moose” and his Mistress with Atlatl
The distribution of the atlatl opens discussions that can lead down intellectual rabbit holes into speculative wonderlands. It was not well-known across all of Europe and finds are centered in France. The bow-and-arrow became the dominant distance weapon in the Old World, though the atlatl continued alongside it in America. The bow was not imported to or invented in Australia. 

The word atlatl comes directly from the language of the Aztecs, Nahuatl. Nouns end in (a)tl. Cocoa is xocolatl. The jaguar is the ocelotl. The dog is the coyototl. And, yes, out there, where the gods came from is the Atlantic ocean. Make of it what you will, because the distribution of the spear thrower seems to be from West to East, across the Pacific to the Americas. The truth may be that like cotton the atlatl was imported to the Old World from the New in prehistoric times.


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