Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Pueblo Grande Museum ~ Ancient Technology Day ~ Part III

Here's a very modern looking sign directing visitors to a very ancient technology. While I was chatting with Timothy Terry about his art and work, my husband and sons were connecting with their inner warriors. They were learning how to use an atlatl.

An atlatl is a spear-thrower or "a tool that uses leverage to achieve greater velocity in dart-throwing, and includes a bearing surface which allows the user to temporarily store energy during the throw." It is believed that homo sapiens have been using the atlatl since the upper paleolithic period. The earliest example, found in France, dates back to about 15,000 years ago and was made of reindeer antler.

The atlatl is capable of throwing a dart or spear well over 100 meters, but is more accurate at closer distances. Atlatls vary in style from the very basic to more ornate designs depicting animals. Later atlatls were sometimes adapted like the one you see here in my son's hand. It has small straps for the fingers to steady and grip the spear before it is released.

To the right you can see my son getting ready to shoot at his target which in this case is a cardboard mammoth. It was hard to get him to give up his atlatl long enough for me to have a try. The only instruction I received is that you sort of push the atlatl downward as you release the dart. I'm guessing my dart made it about 12 meters. I only had one chance as my son was anxious to get his weapon back.

I'm not sure how well my family would have eaten 15,000 years ago. My husband was very proud of finally hitting the mammoth in the trunk. I teased that he didn't exactly bring down the beast, but he replied, "Well anyone can hit a big target like the body of an elephant, but how many people can hit the trunk?"

Wikipedia was used as a source for this article.

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