The atlatl, or spear-thrower, is a tool used to propel darts, or spears, farther and with more force than would be possible with the unaided arm. It has a handle on one end and a hook at the other. The hook is inserted into a hole at the butt end of the spear and when the hunter whips the atlatl forward, somewhat like an overhand serve in tennis, the force is concentrated at the point where the hook contacts the spear. Native Americans using the atlatl could hurl spears with such power that the spears could penetrate Spanish chain mail armor.
The atlatl likely came to America with the earliest Paleoindian cultures. It remained the main hunting weapon until it was replaced by the bow and arrow during the Late Woodland period. Some cultures abandoned the atlatl entirely in favor of the new technology, but it continued in use in some regions until the arrival of Europeans.
The word "atlatl" comes from the Aztec language (Nahuatl).
- Lepper, Bradley T. Ohio Archaeology: An Illustrated Chronicle of Ohio's Ancient American Indian Cultures. Wilmington, Ohio, Orange Frazer Press, 2005.
- Laird, Roderick D. How to Make and Use the Atlatl: the Ancient Weapon of the Ice Age Hunters. Saratoga Museum Paper, Number 1. Saratoga, Wyoming, Atlatl Press, 1984.