Samantha Oberg in 2001 (at age 9) at the beginning of a dart launch directed at a target 20 meters down range. Her longest aimed throw was almost 40 yards in a walk through the 3-D archery course at the Chelsea Rod & Gun Club, the first club in Michigan to welcome this prehistoric dart throwing method at their monthly 3-D archery competition. On her first time out with an atlatl she came out of the woods with a score of 50 out of a possible 300 points. Samantha is holding a 64" carbon dart and a Sabotnisky Eskimo pattern thrower.

photograph by Carl Doney

The atlatl or spear thrower is simply a short piece of wood with a small hook or spur attached to the distal end to make secure contact with the hollow cuped tail end of a fletched spear called a dart. This simple lever greatly anplifies speed and kenetic energy of the dart (fletched spear).

Terminal kinetic energy is revealed in stone and bone where Bison and Mammoth were hunted with this device. The atlatl was used by pre-Columbian cultures thruoughout north america. The spear thrower has survived into this century only in a few isolated areas such as Australia where it is called the wumera by the aborigines, and the Inuit have used the nordaq to hunt from kayaks. Some people in Mexico and Brazil still hunt ducks with the atlatl. The atlatl is also used with a line attached to catch fish.

Michigan hunters used the atlatl up until about a thousand years ago when, as with most other areas of the world the bow and arrow was adapted as a more useful weapon against thin skinned targets. The spear throwing board was used In North America for at least 27,000 years. Surely, skill with the atlatl must have developed to an art over so many centuries. We are left only to imagine what feats of expertise and technical knowledge must have been passed down over hundreds of lifetimes only to be lost or abandoned by the allure of a new technology.

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The Michigan Atlatl Association is dedicated to sharing information and promoting the use of the atlatl.

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If you want to compete in sanctioned atlatl accuracy contests you will want to contact The World Atlalatl Association WAA for the International Standard Accuarcy Contest (ISAC) with participants scores listed from countries worldwide.