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William Carew




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PostPosted: Fri 26 Dec, 2008 1:39 am    Post subject: Atlatl - Ice Age weapon extraordinaire         Reply with quote

I've become very interested in the atlatl dart throwing system. You can see an interesting youtube video on the atlatl here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ej3it7Ct76w

The efficiency of the atlatl for hunting big game may well have been a key factor in the extinction of species such as the Mammoth (shame they couldn't have featured the atlatl in the recent 10,000 BC movie). I remember first hearing about atlatl technology when learning about the Indigenous Australian woomera as a kid. But until recently I had no idea of the power of the system that has been revealed by modern research (in particular, the effect of using light, flexible darts 'tuned' to the atlatl instead of the heavier, rigid spears used by earlier researchers).

It's a fascinating weapons system, probably the first compound (as in, featuring more than one component) weapon system used by humankind. I believe atlatls are tentatively dated to as early as the Upper Paleolithic (e.g. 30,000 BC) and they were used to dramatic effect by the Aztecs against Spanish conquistadores. Atlatl technology was in continuous use right up until the 19th/20th century in some indigenous cultures (e.g. Australian Aboriginals). Talk about longevity!

More info:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlatl
http://www.atlatl.com/
http://www.worldatlatl.org/
http://www.atlatl.net/

Anyone on myArmoury have experiece making or throwing with an atlatl?



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Bill Carew
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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Fri 26 Dec, 2008 2:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Always a fascinating weapon. How did they discover that the originals were flexible? Did we manage to find examples somehow? Or just reconstructive archeology?

M.

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Gavin Kisebach




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PostPosted: Fri 26 Dec, 2008 3:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have a friend who can make one of these in a couple of minutes, and have a few darts in an hour. The range on his big atlatl is amazing. If memory serves we had a little bet on who could throw a dart the farthest; he beat me with a 94 pace throw. That's almost a football field Eek!

I had trouble hitting 3 stacked hay bales from 15 yards, but he had it down to a 2 foot shot group at 20 yards. I'm sure by now he's a proper good shot.

There are only two kinds of scholars; those who love ideas and those who hate them. ~ Emile Chartier
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Arne Focke
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PostPosted: Fri 26 Dec, 2008 4:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A few years back I made myself two of those. No real beauties, but working very well.

Last year I took them up again an put a steel arrowhead on one of the spears, just for the fun of it. The results were scary. I wasn't able to get the steel tip out of the wooden target I used. The spear shattered of course.


M. Eversberg II wrote:
Always a fascinating weapon. How did they discover that the originals were flexible? Did we manage to find examples somehow? Or just reconstructive archeology?


The whole thing is reconstructed from similar throwing thingies from cultures still using them today.
The only part of this weapon we have are the tips from the throwing staff. You know, the ones holding the spear in place.


Gavin Kisebach wrote:

I had trouble hitting 3 stacked hay bales from 15 yards, but he had it down to a 2 foot shot group at 20 yards. I'm sure by now he's a proper good shot.

It usually is easier for children. As an adult you are too set in your ways like how to aim etc., you are simply not used aiming with something which you are holding next to your head and not in your line of sight.
Try not to think about the throw itself too much and just fix your mind on the target. After a few hours of practice your body should have learned how to do it.

So schön und inhaltsreich der Beruf eines Archäologen ist, so hart ist auch seine Arbeit, die keinen Achtstundentag kennt! (Wolfgang Kimmig in: Die Heuneburg an der oberen Donau, Stuttgart 1983)
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Doug Lester




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PostPosted: Fri 26 Dec, 2008 8:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The History Detectives on PBS had a segment a year or two ago where a man, I believe in Oklahoma, found a bison skull in a stream bed with a stone spear point embedded in it where the horn meets the skull. Not only was it deeply embedded, but when an x-ray examination was made, it was found that the spear head had broken from the force of impact. The experts that they took the skull to said that the only way that the spear head could have been delivered with enough force to do that was to use an atlatl. Ellese Luray, who was presenting the piece, was shown using an atlatl to throw a spear, or dart, against an ash block wall and she managed to do it with enough force that she actually broke one of the shafts. That is one impressive weapons system.

To give a time frame to the skull, it was from a bison species that has been extinct for about 6000 years. Also, even though the skull looked about the normal size for a modern bison, it was from a calf. Those paleoindians were hunting some really big pieces of beef.
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Jeremy V. Krause




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PostPosted: Fri 26 Dec, 2008 10:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

gosh I had never heard of this,

Thanks for sharing. THat's why I lone myArmoury!

Jeremy
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Robert P. Wimmers
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PostPosted: Fri 26 Dec, 2008 3:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi all,

I gave a bushcraft course on making an atlatl. The thrower is really easy to make, I took a stack of selected hazel branches to the course and had my students shape them with just a knife in under 30 minutes. The only thing to make is the hook at the end, really, so cut the branch just short of a slight bend to keep the shaft more clear of the throwing platform. Harden the hook over a fire, just singing it, do not set it alight. I would have posted the pictures of the small "how to" article I did in Dutch for the bushcraft website, but couldn't think of where I put them Blush

The tricky part is making the darts! Copiced wood, the straight shoots from the base of alder or hazel, works fine, straighten them over a fire, then scrape them down an bit. Do not go for very long darts, 1.30 meters will work very well. Dig out a slight depresion in the base for the hook to notch into and you are ready to throw. I have feathered mine with three feathers each, tying them on the medieval way of making arrows. Flax cord works well, but one could also make cord from stinging nettle fibre or glue them on using a resin glue, made by mixing slightly heated pine resin with some charcoal and a little fat. As it cools, it forms a tight enough bond to firmly stick the feather to the shaft.
If you do not want to go to the trouble of making your own shafts, some round (10 mm) pine wood from the local hardware store works fine.

Word of caution, these things will really fly at speed, it is a weapon to be treated with respect!
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JE Sarge
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PostPosted: Fri 26 Dec, 2008 3:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There is a primative weapons professor at UGA that can keep a 6" group at 80 yards using 5' darts. This is probably one of the most amazing things I have ever seen with such a weapon. I forget his name, but I believe I have seen a video from him on YouTube before. He does demonstrations at some of the area's many Native American festivals.

I'll keep looking and if I find a link to him or his videos, I will post it here. It would be interested to get him off in here to talk a little bit about the atlatl. He obviously knows something, because the best I can do is to hit a target about 10ft away. Laughing Out Loud

UPDATE: This is not the professor I am talking about, but you can see the accuracy this guy is getting at different ranges. Not sure about the range, but I'd guess he's 30+ yards away at his most distant from the target. Look at his grouping, the darts are right on top of one another:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8QeH3sryM9Y

Definately better than I can do...

J.E. Sarge
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"But lack of documentation, especially for such early times, is not to be considered as evidence of non-existance." - Ewart Oakeshott
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William Carew




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PostPosted: Fri 26 Dec, 2008 10:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

JE Sarge wrote:
There is a primative weapons professor at UGA that can keep a 6" group at 80 yards using 5' darts.


Could this be the chap?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5fx0uh3mis&feature=related

Or could it have been Prof. Bob Perkins (the chap linked to in the first video I posted)?

Bill Carew
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JE Sarge
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PostPosted: Fri 26 Dec, 2008 11:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

No, its not Dr. Perkins or the other older gentleman.

The UGA guy's name is Carl I believe. He's a little more clean cut. We have a local pow wow here at the Etowah Indian Mounds in the spring, he's there every year. If I cannot find out before then, I will know come April. We always go with the family.

On another side of this, I have a number of archaic bannerstones in my Native American collection. Though not confirmed, these are speculated to be atlatl weights. Pretty cool little pieces of history that got me a bit more interested in this form of weaponry. It would definately would be cool to get proficient with the atlatl and hunt with it instead of the recurve I currently use. I'd probably get some pretty strange looks at the hunt club. LOL.

J.E. Sarge
Crusader Monk Sword Scabbards and Customizations
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"But lack of documentation, especially for such early times, is not to be considered as evidence of non-existance." - Ewart Oakeshott
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Arne Focke
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PostPosted: Sat 27 Dec, 2008 1:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

What i notice in the videos is that their shafts are really short. Mine are 2 m long (and i've seen longer). Since the wave-motion of the shaft is more pronounced in the long versions it should increase the flight stability.

The guy in the second video has some kind of contraption attached to his atlatl to hold the shaft in place while throwing.
You don't need that, the aborigines certainly don't, simply use your thumb and index finger of your throwing hand.

It is a fun way to test if someone is used to working with his hands. A "desk worker" usually will throw the whole thing away (shaft and atlatl), simply because he has problems of opening just those two finger. Laughing Out Loud

So schön und inhaltsreich der Beruf eines Archäologen ist, so hart ist auch seine Arbeit, die keinen Achtstundentag kennt! (Wolfgang Kimmig in: Die Heuneburg an der oberen Donau, Stuttgart 1983)
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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Sat 27 Dec, 2008 2:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

How do you create darts that bend like that? I've never done that sort of wood work. Also, how do you straighten something over a fire?

M.

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Robert P. Wimmers
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PostPosted: Sat 27 Dec, 2008 3:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Greetings,

I do not agree with the "mythe" of the wobble in the shaft enhancing stability. As airflow will work on the feathers from different angles as the shaft wobbles through the air, it will be less accurate instead of more. Nor have I found any truth in the dart "storing" energy on bending, which is then explosively released on straightening, making it go further. As there is no fixed point to work against, that energy will not go anywhere usefull.

Then there is the agrument of effort versus gain in the discussion on length of the dart. The function of the dart is to insert a cutting edge sufficiently deep into a prey animal. The distance for doing this is limited by the force of impact one is still able to achieve at a given distance. Speed deminishes from the moment the dart leaves the thrower. Why spend a lot of time and effort finding sufficiently long, thin, relatively straight branches and turning these into 2 meter shafts, when 1.30 will also do the job of delivering that cutting edge with good penetrating power. The mass may impart a bit more impact, but will also slow the dart down, and any hunter knows the quicker that arrow gets there in the flattest possible trajectory, the higher the chances of a kill. A lot of people in Europe seem to forget an atlatl is a hunting weapon and should be viewed as one when trying to reconstruct it. Lugging around 2 meter long spears in hunting conditions, stalking the prey, is also a bit unpractical. It is perhaps a bit like archery, a flight arrow and bow have little to do with hunting.

The guy in the first video is VERY good, by the way. The distance is about 27 meters, counting his strides. I like the way he stands nearly motionless, the firing of the dart a quick flick of the arm.

I like the paleoplanet.net tutorials, although I would not have used bamboe for the darts myself, being more of a purist Big Grin
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Arne Focke
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PostPosted: Sat 27 Dec, 2008 9:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

M. Eversberg II wrote:
How do you create darts that bend like that? I've never done that sort of wood work. Also, how do you straighten something over a fire?


With a dart just 8 - 10mm thick it well bend when flying, just by itself.
Even an arrow does that, it is simply not that pronounced.

With fresh wood you just use the heat of the fire, not the flame. When all the moisture in the wood is heated up you can straighten it. Older wood needs some extra moisture, to add that you need to build a steamer out of an old pipe, or something like it, to heat it with steam. Just add water Big Grin

So schön und inhaltsreich der Beruf eines Archäologen ist, so hart ist auch seine Arbeit, die keinen Achtstundentag kennt! (Wolfgang Kimmig in: Die Heuneburg an der oberen Donau, Stuttgart 1983)
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R D Moore




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PostPosted: Sat 27 Dec, 2008 10:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Interesting coincidence! I was just reading my copy of "Archaeology", and came across this article about collegiate atlatl competition.
http://www.archaeology.org/0901/etc/conversation.html

"No man is entitled to the blessings of freedom unless he be vigilant in its preservation" ...Gen. Douglas Macarthur
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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Sat 27 Dec, 2008 5:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hah, that's the first copy of that Mag I got! Right next to me right now...

M.

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Robert P. Wimmers
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PostPosted: Sun 28 Dec, 2008 1:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The link to the site of Thunderbolt Atlatl is also very usefull, as it shows several types. These are beautifull piece of work, by the way. I wish he would show some pics of the bone and flint points. I have a surviving flint point laying around, but have found it a bit heavy (which is why it survived Wink )
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