The atlatl is the world's first and oldest weapons system in continuous use, first appearing around 30,000 years ago in Europe The atlatl is made of wood, bone or antler, often thin and flat about two feet in length and used to propel a 2 metre long arrow-like projectile called a dart. One end of the atlalt is held in the hand while the butt of the dart is placed in a surface groove at the other end. At the end of the groove is a raised spur or attached spike to hold the bottom of the dart in place while it is held in a slightly raised position by the same hand that holds the handle end of the atlatl. Using the leverage of this short board, which functioned like an extension of the thrower's arm, the hunter propelled the dart in an overhand or side motion with a force far greater than that of a hand-thrown spear. Perhaps the coolest weapon ever invented by palaeolithic humans, the atlatl is the first lever, as well as weapons system and complex tool invented by ancient Man. The name comes from a combination of Nuhatl indian words of Central America meaning "Water" and "to throw" from its use as a fishing weapon, though separate examples are known from almost every continent, except Africa and Antarctica. Atlatl is a general term used to describe many dart-throwing devices.
Using atlatls, the Aztec warriors could pierce the steel armour of the invading Spanish conquistadores in the 1500's, from several hundred yards before the Spanish forces could get within musket range.
by Jack Cordial October 28, 2004