Dart Point and Atlatl (Spear Thrower)
dart
Terminal Early  Period
5,000-3,200
Before Present


"Spear thrower"
(Illustration © Campbell Grant)

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The atlatl, or "spear thrower," is a weapon that has been used since ancient times by many different peoples around the world. Each group had its own word for this tool. The name atlatl comes from the Aztec (Nahuatl) language.

The atlatl is usually a flat stick 18-24 inches long, with a hand grip at one end. At the other end is a hook that fits in a socket in the back of a spear or dart. The atlatl is held next to the shoulder and acts as an extra joint to the hunter's arm, moving the spear with great force.

This weapon can be very accurate. The Inuit hunted walruses with the atlatl, and African people have found that it can pierce an elephant's hide! In the Chumash region, the atlatl was used in hunting for thousands of years until the weapon was replaced by the bow and arrow about A.D. 500.


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This Tishle' blade is the only surviving example of a Chumash tomol paddle. The paddle was collected during Vancouver's visit to the Santa Barbara area in 1793 and presently resides in the British Museum collection.

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