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Primitive Technology: Making an Atlatl for Spear Throwing


A man makes an atlatl or spear thrower with stone tools and fire. He practices throwing a spear to show the power and accuracy of this ancient weapon.

After making a stone-throwing sling and a primitive bow and arrows, this man tries his hand at fashioning an atlatl or spear thrower. It’s a relatively quick project – it took less than one day to make – particularly when compared to some of his other primitive skills or bushcraft projects.

Using an atlatl gives the spear thrower extra power and distance over simply throwing a spear by hand without this unique tool. It basically works on the principle of increased leverage.

He cut a relatively short – around 25 inches – and slightly forked stick for the spear thrower. The forked branch went back towards the handle, kind of like a number 7, and he carved the end of the fork down to something of a point.

The spear itself was approximately 75 to 80 inches in length and a little more than a half-inch in diameter. In one end he carved a depression or cup with a sharpened piece of stone. This cupped end would fit into the forked pointed part of the atlatl.

The other, “business end” of the spear he hardened in a fire and ground it to a point on a stone.

Then, holding the spear and thrower together at about shoulder height, he hurled the spear at his target, releasing the spear but holding onto the atlatl.

At 15 meters he was fairly accurate, being able to hit a target directly a few times. Most of his misses were not off by much, although he admitted that it would take a good deal of practice to become truly proficient with the spear.

He wrote, “The extra energy gained from a Woomera’s (Australian spear thrower) use has been calculated as 4 times that of compound bow (Wikipedia). It’s easy to make (this took less than a day) but requires lots of training to become accurate.”

Like what you see here? You can read more great articles by David Smith at his facebook page, Stumpjack Outdoors.

NEXT: Primitive Technology – Making Bow and Arrows

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Primitive Technology: Making an Atlatl for Spear Throwing