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Hunt Like a Caveman
November 14, 2005 12:15 AM   Subscribe

The atlatl. Maybe you're a little too old fashioned for black powder rifles. You're feeling a little too rugged to build your own siege weapon. You don't even really like weapons as newfangled as the blow gun or the obsidian dagger. Well, friends, then the the atlatl is for you. It might have driven the wooly mammoth to extinction, and soon, at last, you may be able to use it to kill stuff that isn't extinct.
posted by maxsparber (29 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Reminds me of Ayla's spear-thrower invention in the Clan of the Cave Bear series. Jean Auel really researched her shit.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 12:47 AM on November 14, 2005


Just missing Slings...

http://slinging.org/
posted by The Cardinal at 12:51 AM on November 14, 2005


Rather than hunt with some antiquated tool, I personally just run out and strangle, just as I am sure our prehistoric forebears did.
posted by maxsparber at 1:00 AM on November 14, 2005


That post wasn't inspired by a recent episode of Survivor by any chance?

From the Wiki Article:

The people of New Guinea and Australian Aborigines used spearthrowers as well. The common name on Australia is given as woomera.

FYI, Woomera is the name of Oz's rocket launching range.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 1:11 AM on November 14, 2005


No, no. It's done like this. They should make this a reality TV/Deathmatch show. Then I might actually watch TV.
posted by IronLizard at 1:14 AM on November 14, 2005


40 minutes, and he came out walking bowlegged. Hmmm, maybe they shouldn't put it on tv.
posted by IronLizard at 1:16 AM on November 14, 2005


Or more usefully.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:17 AM on November 14, 2005


No, dog stranglings probably wouldn't get good ratings.
posted by IronLizard at 1:29 AM on November 14, 2005


So it's, um, a spear chucker?
posted by antron at 2:53 AM on November 14, 2005


I knew a former Spetsnaz type who liked to go spear-hunting in North Carolina. Barefoot. In December. In track shorts and a T-shirt. Mostly for deer, but he got a wild boar that way one time.
posted by alumshubby at 4:37 AM on November 14, 2005


Mostly for deer, but he got a wild boar that way one time.

He probably didn't get much of a vote -- either he was getting a boar, or a boar was getting him.

I built and played with an atlatl some time ago. It was comical to watch those darts go, oh, eight feet in random directions. However, once I found out that you need really flexible darts, and fletched a fiberglass rod, wow -- they aren't kidding about 100 yard throws being easy.

I'd never seen the bit about a mass in the center of the dart -- I'll need to dig this out and try it.

Kids -- if you try this (and, really, you should), make sure you have lots of free space without people. You will make several stupid looking attempts, then you'll get it right, and the dart will end up way over there. Make sure over there is "grass" or "dirt", not "window" or "dog" or "mom."

Because that last one is just a bit hard to explain at Thanksgiving.
posted by eriko at 4:48 AM on November 14, 2005


I learned about the atlatl in Freshman US History class (we started at. the. beginning.) and after the final, had forgotton about completely, until Thursday night's Survivor: Maya Empire, where they used one in a challenge. Theirs, of course, had an spear only as long as, say, a bow and arrow's arrow. I remember wondering how the atlatl evolved into the lacrosse stick, though I never got an answer.
posted by sdrawkcab at 4:55 AM on November 14, 2005


One of my favorite phrases from college was "That's about as useful as an atlatl for an Alouatta palliata" -- that being a species of howler monkey that is supposedly one of the few (the only?) monkeys that can't make the over-the-shoulder motion required for using an atlatl.

Really, "an atlatl for an Alouatta palliata" is just very fun to say. It's something you can chant over and over while playing bongo drums, for instance.

(all-oo-ah-ta pol-lee-eh-ta)
posted by ewagoner at 5:18 AM on November 14, 2005


That post wasn't inspired by a recent episode of Survivor by any chance?

had forgotten about completely, until Thursday night's Survivor: Maya Empire, where they used one in a challenge

Kewl. I didn't see it but my missus explained the challenge to me and I said "sounds like a woomera."

Answer please, maxsparber. Not accusin', just wonderin'.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 5:22 AM on November 14, 2005


At BPS Engineering in Manhattan, Mont., a leading manufacturer of atlatls, sales have averaged about 450 in recent years, said owner Bob Perkins.

Wow. I used to live in Manhattan - I didn't know there was much of anything manufactured there, let alone ancient weapons. Last I knew the town had one stoplight. If this is the home of a leading manufacturer I don't think this qualifies as much more than a cottage industry.
posted by caution live frogs at 5:36 AM on November 14, 2005


I don't think this qualifies as much more than a cottage industry.

Assuming they don't make way more than they sell, their output is two a day, five days a week. Depending on the labor involved, that's precisely a cottage industry.
posted by Vetinari at 6:15 AM on November 14, 2005


I'd rather hunters be using something like this rather than be equipped with high powered rifles with expensive scopes on them.
posted by QuarterlyProphet at 6:39 AM on November 14, 2005


The Cardinal, what about this sling?
posted by davy at 6:55 AM on November 14, 2005


almshubby, your "Spetnaz-type" was a showboat: real "primitive hunters" wore fur clothes and leather moccasins. They'd laugh at somebody who hunted in December dressed for August.
posted by davy at 6:59 AM on November 14, 2005


I spent an entire summer using an atlatl. I worked at a state archaeological park that had Mississippian Mound on site so we did a lot of things for kids to demonstrate the culture.

Our system used a 5 foot piece of river cane with a nut, bolt and washer on the end to provide weight. I then would throw it through a cardboard deer to demonstrate and then let the kids do it. After 4 months of doing that I got pretty darn good with an atlatl. Surprisingly enough most of the kids who tried it were very good with it as well. Typically it was the part of the tour that the kids liked the most.
posted by teleri025 at 7:34 AM on November 14, 2005


That there are modern American hunters who want to use the atlatl over assault rifles pleases me.

Next to strangling, clubbing, stoning, trapping or punching out game animals, using an atlatl is touching base with some very ancient neural wiring.



Photo of a loaded atlatl. They call those "darts". Photo Source.
posted by rmmcclay at 8:00 AM on November 14, 2005


When atlatls are outlawed, only outlaws will have atlatls.
posted by MotherTucker at 8:12 AM on November 14, 2005


I failed atlatl throwing in high school.
posted by TwelveTwo at 8:18 AM on November 14, 2005


ewagoner, most monkeys can't swing their arms overhead; that's one of diffentiating factors between monkeys and apes like us.
posted by nicwolff at 9:03 AM on November 14, 2005


davy, I asked Yevgeni about the t-shirt and shorts. He told me, "I don't want no clothes. I am not cold. But if anyone saw me hunting naked, they might complain."
posted by alumshubby at 9:26 AM on November 14, 2005


I did the same thing as taleri at a camp near Mesa Verde. It was surprisingly easy, even for a total klutz like me, once you got the hang of it.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 10:16 AM on November 14, 2005


For the record, I haven't watched survivor since Richard Hatch took his clothes off.
posted by maxsparber at 11:56 AM on November 14, 2005


I might be one of the few people on here who has actually fired a black powder rifle.

That's primative enough for me. It's amazing how often it misfires, if you're used to something modern.
posted by spnx at 7:06 PM on November 14, 2005


How likely am I to walk down the streets of my city and hear someone say: "I spent an entire summer using an atlatl."?

I love modern communication technology so much it makes me weepy.
posted by nromanek at 4:27 PM on November 15, 2005


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