Wauru' tribesman uses a spear sling to launch a blunt spear in a practice competition in preparation for javari, mock battles between neighboring tribes.
The Wauru tribe once numbered over 3000 now fewer than 85 remain. The government of Brazil has established a large preserve to protect the remaining tribes lifestyle and culture from harmful outside contact. Among the skills being preserved, the spear sling is one of the oldest. Today, sling thrown spears have been replaced by the bow and arrow and more recently by the .22 rifle for hunting. The spear sling is still sometimes used to take fish and turtles.
Among the Karaya Indians of Brazil, the spear sling was used exclusively as a fighting weapon. At ritual celebrations the Karaya still perform the sling dance called the "yauari" which depicts the wounding and death of a warrior attacked by an opponent armed with the spear sling. Today, the spear sling is still used as a popular sport. Proficiency with the spear sling comes from years of practice starting at a young age with a scaled down spear sling designed specifically for a child.
The Kuikuru spear sling is about 22-24 inches long and varies in size according to the arm length of the user. The hook is made of bone or wood bound with a fiber wrap terminating in a bunch of brightly colored feathers. The grip is a broad hour glass shaped with a hole for the index finger located just below the delicate rod shaft. The Araguaya Indians used a similar spear sling but more angular in section.
Photo source: National Geographic, January, 1966
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