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Monday, August 15, 2011

Who Is Using the Atlatl Now?

There are American Indians who remember the atlatl as part of their heritage. I have heard the very word used in songs and chants. You might hear it at a modern pow wow. That they remember it may not be surprising when we know that many of their ancestors were using it before 7000 BC. They were probably using it before 20,000 BC. There seems to be a bit of evidence that they may have been using it as early as 30,000 BC. They found it useful for hunting food animals larger than grizzlies and moose. They used it to hunt some animals larger than a modern elephant.

The atlatl was more important in the hearts and minds of Native Americans than the sword was to European's and Asian's; and the atlatl may have been used longer. The great difference being that the atlatl was seldom used to kill a man. It was made for bigger game.

You can probably find pictures of atlatls on the www. An atlatl is an implement use to launch a spear-like dart a greater distance, with greater power, and probably with greater accuracy than a man could throw a javelin. It usually of wood, worked to a length a bit less than the length of a man's arm. It had a hand grip at one end and at the other a notch to hold the butt end of a large dart or spear. It multiplied the power of a man's arm.

Some atlatls were still in use among Native Americans when De Soto arrived in North American. But by the time that Spanish Explorer and Conquistador arrived the bow and arrow was more appropriate for the deer and other small game available. Then, Americans and others were still carrying swords in 1900, when they had much more efficient weapons available.

I have never held an atlatl, but I have heard that, in Alabama, hunters are licensed to use them. I suspect that they may be used in California and Arizona. What can you tell use.

Midew elders of the Grand Medicine Society of the Canadian Great Lakes region may sing of the atlatl using another name. What is that name.

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