Known as the Atlatl (pronounced at-lat-al or atal-atal) in the America's (Woomera in Australia) is an ancient spear-throwing weapon that uses leverage to achieve great velocity and distance of the projectile (up to 280m). It was developed in Europe more than 20,000 years ago and in North America about 12,000 years ago, well before the bow and arrow and is probably one of mankind's first mechanical inventions. Atlatl comes from Nuttal's (1891) translation of two Aztec (Nahautl) words - one meaning 'throwing' and the other 'on water'.
The Spanish Conquistadors who accompanied Don Hernán Cortés (1485 – 1547) into Mexico in 1520 AD, were terrified of this ancient weapon, despite wearing armour and having firearm technology. One Conquistador Bernal Diaz del Castillo (1492 – 1585), wrote about his experiences in "The Conquest of New Spain" in 1521 and he called it the most feared of all Aztecs weapons. The Aztecs used their atlatl's up to a hundred metres away to accurately hit the Spanish, but probably not penetrating their armour (as demonstrated >> here by Mike Loades). Points on the darts were obsidian barbed, so they had to be drawn out the other side in order to be removed.
The atlatl itself is a stick about 300mm-500mm long, with a handgrip at one end and a "spur" or hook at the other end. The spur is a point (wood or antler point) that fits into a cavity at the back of a 1.5m - 2m long dart that can be fletched. The dart is suspended parallel to the atlatl, held by the tips of the fingers at the handgrip. It is then launched through a sweeping arm and wrist motion, similar to a tennis serve.
Here I demonstrate making three simple Atlatl's that use slightly different grip and throwing technique for distance or accuracy.
The materials needed are:
Basic Atlatl Shape
The Atlatl is not a toy - please use safely & responsibly
(For more information on the Atlatl > World Atlatl Association)
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