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Forum Index > Off-topic Talk > Javelin Throws Reply to topic
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Niels Just Rasmussen




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PostPosted: Thu 18 Sep, 2014 9:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Benjamin H. Abbott wrote:
The first paper by Murray and company is fascinating because of how poorly the ancient replica javelin performed compared with modern sporting javelins. The athletes threw the 450g replica 33-50m by hand while they could throw the 800g sporting javelins 60-70m! Even with the ankyle they only managed 56-66m.

In a vacuum you'd need around 23 m/s to throw a javelin 50m at the typical 30ish-degree release angle. That'd only be about 120 J. Around 27 m/s for the 66m throw with the ankyle would be roughly 160 J. By contrast a 70m throw with a 800g modern javelin would be approximately 300 J. Of course, given the apparent worse aerodynamic properties of the wooden replica, the energy figures would likely be higher than in vacuum, while with the modern javelins they might be slight lower.

Thanks for sharing that study. I do wonder if differently designed replica javelins would have performed better - perhaps stiffer and/or thicker wood, etc.

If Irish darts had similar kinetic energy and range (120-180J and 50-70m) then I can see 16th-century English observers didn't find them particularly impressive.


I think it is safe to assume you wanted either Javelins with some weight or having them more tip heavy for penetration power as they move downwards?
Both very light javelins and sport javelins are not very tip heavy, so their downward curve are not very prominent.
Modern Javelin (Nemeth) spear is actually designed so you can't throw them so far after east german Uwe Hohn tossed the old one 104,8 meter in 1984. (the old one had the problem of landing flat giving almost no mark to register).

Probably it gives to slightly different optimum throwing techniques (differences in angle).

What I don't understand is with the wooden spear thrower went out of use, since it is quite efficient from a standing position (don't need running). Maybe the simple answer is number of missiles. You can carry more arrows easily than javelin?
Also perhaps since javelins for spear throwers are flexible and behaves like an arrow in flight? So it limit the mass of the javelin and is basically the same as bow and arrow.
With a heavy javelin the shaft is stiff during flight and will penetrate better and the javelin can be made much heavier......
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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Thu 18 Sep, 2014 11:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The curious thing about atlatls or spear throwers is that numbers for them are all over the place. Karl Hutchings and Lorenz Bruchert published a study in 1997 that claims velocities of up to 64 m/s and kinetic energies of up to 771 J. (Average 247J with a 273g dart and 353J with a 545g dart.) By contrast, John Whittaker and Kathryn Kamp report only 22-43 J for experienced throwers. So either darts from spear throwers hit harder than most any bow or they're too weak to be plausible military weapons. Given Spanish accounts of dart performance in the Americas, I'm more inclined to believe Hutchings, but 771 J seems unlikely.

Assuming high performance, atlatl darts remain slower than and likely less accurate than arrows from most military bows. Using javelins or darts to skirmish against a bow or especially a crossbow strikes me as a frustrating experience. While the javelins or darts might penetrate defenses better, they'd be harder to aim and easier to dodge thanks to the lower velocity. And the ability to carry more arrows than darts or javelins also matters.

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Bartek Strojek




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PostPosted: Thu 18 Sep, 2014 11:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:

Also perhaps since javelins for spear throwers are flexible and behaves like an arrow in flight? So it limit the mass of the javelin and is basically the same as bow and arrow.
With a heavy javelin the shaft is stiff during flight and will penetrate better and the javelin can be made much heavier......


That was my understanding from what I've read some time ago - thrower darts have to be flexible and rather light to be thrown from the end of such long lever without trouble.

So they're something between arrow and a 'full size' javelin, in essence.
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Thu 18 Sep, 2014 1:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Benjamin H. Abbott wrote:
The curious thing about atlatls or spear throwers is that numbers for them are all over the place. Karl Hutchings and Lorenz Bruchert published a study in 1997 that claims velocities of up to 64 m/s and kinetic energies of up to 771 J. (Average 247J with a 273g dart and 353J with a 545g dart.) By contrast, John Whittaker and Kathryn Kamp report only 22-43 J for experienced throwers. So either darts from spear throwers hit harder than most any bow or they're too weak to be plausible military weapons. Given Spanish accounts of dart performance in the Americas, I'm more inclined to believe Hutchings, but 771 J seems unlikely.


Whittaker and Kamp have darts lighter than many war arrows! No wonder they have such low energies. The energies above vary so much because the dart/javelin masses vary a lot.

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Alexis Bataille




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PostPosted: Mon 24 Nov, 2014 2:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I talk of this previously in another thread but just to be sure :
in the skirmish "game" of the ancient Greek hoplite time, javelin was more used by skirmisher because it was cheaper right ?
another question : with a pelast javelin and a skilled thrower what is the effective range (more than 50% chance of hit) against a single target ?
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Jaroslav Jakubov




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PostPosted: Tue 25 Nov, 2014 5:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

from balistic perspective, doesnt javelin that is thrown at longer distance, also have higher impact speed? I'm no expert, but from what i remember about physics, projectile flies upward, til its speed is greater than gravitational pull, with javelin thrown at 30 degrees, javelin would get its minimum speed at the top of its ascend just slightly below the 9.81m/s, and would accelerate on its way down. it would not achieve the release speed, but will not get under 9.81m/s either, while javelin with longest descend would also have the highest impact velocity. correct me please if I'm wrong.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Tue 25 Nov, 2014 12:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jaroslav Jakubov wrote:
from balistic perspective, doesnt javelin that is thrown at longer distance, also have higher impact speed? I'm no expert, but from what i remember about physics, projectile flies upward, til its speed is greater than gravitational pull, with javelin thrown at 30 degrees, javelin would get its minimum speed at the top of its ascend just slightly below the 9.81m/s, and would accelerate on its way down. it would not achieve the release speed, but will not get under 9.81m/s either, while javelin with longest descend would also have the highest impact velocity. correct me please if I'm wrong.

This might work in a vacuum. The real world has to deal with wind and drag.

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Gary T




Location: Missouri
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PostPosted: Tue 25 Nov, 2014 12:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think that's why the real use of Javelins in the later middle ages is limited to light horse like Stradiots.

You have the advantage of the forward moving horse to add even more energy, and against non missile armed armored troops they would be a very effective weapon.
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Alexis Bataille




Location: montpellier
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PostPosted: Sat 27 Jun, 2015 12:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Which distance a trained soldier can hit a stationary target with a greek javelin ? (like 50% of hit) 20 meters ?
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Neal Matheson




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PostPosted: Sat 27 Jun, 2015 1:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Interesting thread, as quite a serious atlatlist this is a subject that has come up a few times in the spearthrower/atlatl world. I think it's worth just adding that the spearthrower (caveats about antiquity and archaeology) was developed as a hunting tool and not neccesarily as a means of increasing power, as is often stated. At realistic ranges a good thrower will hit a kill zone on an animal near enough every time something hard to reproduce with hand thrown spears.To get this accuracy spears thrown by an atlatl need to be lighter than those that can be cast by hand. That said my own calculations on throws made by some of Europe's best thrower's using a variety of darts produced momentum values that were higher than achieved by primitive bows.
Most of this work was done to counter some rather over stated claims about atlatl effectiveness made on popular youtube videos. As far as I know no atlatlist has confirmed what Diaz wrote about darts going through armour either.

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Pieter B.





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PostPosted: Sat 27 Jun, 2015 5:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Alexis Bataille wrote:
Which distance a trained soldier can hit a stationary target with a greek javelin ? (like 50% of hit) 20 meters ?


If we look at it from a battle perspective they won't even have to aim that well. It's good to hit someone in unprotected places but in the end just hitting someone can be good enough.
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