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(What tribes?)[edit]

John, can you please say in this good article some more which nation of the Native Americans use this tool or is it too hard task for you since you're from and live on their 'native' land - Wisconsin. Here in Europe we are pretty much far from there - perhaps as you're from mother Russia :-) And look up for my ignorance. If you ask me if I know that Native Americans also live, for instance, in Wisconsin I must say I do not. BTW I am glad to hear that you're learning Russian. I'll probably learn it my whole life, ha, ha. And for sure I'll learn that long English too. Respect. --XJamRastafire 21:02 May 8, 2003 (UTC)

(Off topic)[edit]

Hello John. Being a naive first-year college student (who still thinks digital watches are cool) I have all the enthusiasm and useless bits of trivia needed to write Wikipedia articles, but I tend to do a rather flimsy job of it. Now that my brain is smarter for knowing about the atlatl, something I, five minutes ago, did not even know existed, I have decided to use your articles as templates for writing my own. It's ok for me to *be* a 19-year-old -- but I don't have to write like one. Please, if you are ever so inclined, feel extremely free to edit my articles and be advicy (pardon my habit of putting the letter y in places where it should not be in order to make adjectivy descriptions more convenient for me. I am berated for it often, much as I should be). Take care, and please keep writing articles. You, typing at your keyboard, are making me a smarter person! Your Little Apprentice, Liesel Hess 18:12 May 08, 2003


Does anybody know from which australian language the word Woomera is taken from? --Yak 19:05, Feb 18, 2004 (UTC)

Yak, the name comes from the Eora people who were the original inhabitants of the Sydney area, so those who still use it in Central Australia would have a different name for it. LamontCranston 14:45, Aug 29, 2006 (UTC)


The spear might be a weapon, but the spear-thrower is only an instrument

--Yak 20:18, Feb 19, 2004 (UTC)

Much as the "gun" enhances the effect of a thrown bullet, no? - Nunh-huh 20:23, 19 Feb 2004 (UTC)

Hmmm- yes --Yak 20:24, Feb 19, 2004 (UTC)

A better analogy is a gun sling (enhances aim but is not the weapon itself). Where the darts are made for a specific thrower, I guess the thrower is part of the weapon but the basic concept is a tool for throwing spears.
— Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:45, 6 July 2005


There's an interesting terminology gaffe here. One of the external links has this to say about 'spear' throwing: "But most enthusiasts object to the term 'spear', since it suggests a rigid shaft. An atlatl actually throws a flexible shaft that's more like a 150 centimetre long arrow and is properly called a dart."
—Preceding unsigned comment added by Polyparadigm (talkcontribs) 05:58, 16 January 2005

Armor piercing[edit]

"History shows that the spanish feared the Aztec atlatl above all other weapons and many an unfortunate spaniard was surprised to find the power of weapon could easily penatrate spanish metal armor..." There's something very wrong with that sentence. Period Spanish armor was made to protect from firearm bullets, and yet a projectile tipped with obsidian thrown at it could "easily penetrate"? Not possible. At most it would skip off with little concussive damage. This article needs serious revision. --SunWuKong 14:19, 16 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Firearm bullets at that time were large-caliber, low-velocity, and only as hard as printer's lead. Armor-piercing ammunition really wasn't an option for armies of the time. In armor design, the important qualities of a projectile are its hardness and the amount of momentum behind a given cross-section. A four-foot wooden shaft is actually fairly heavy, and silica glass is harder than even the best steel. An interesting discussion on the topic of Conquistador armor can be found here; I've reproduced an excerpt below.--Joel 17:28, 16 Jun 2005 (UTC)
Compare the performance of a bullet proof vest against an attacker armed with a tanto. This is why the police wear stab jackets.
Your link to "stab jacket" redirects to a piece of diving equipment. Apparently "stab jacket" is diving slang for "stabilization jacket."
Septegram 02:18, 25 July 2006 (UTC)
Bulletproof vests are uniquely lousy against bladed weapons. This is because kevlar is strong under tension, but has very little shearing resistance--you can cut it with a pair of scissors. Metal armor is both shearing AND tension resistant. Its brittleness in thin layers makes it less effective against relatively high-velocity bullets, but these claims are simply impossible. If an atlatl spear can pierce two layers of armor and the person in between, why did it get replaced by the bow in ice-age Europe? As I understand it, the Spanish armor-piercing claims are generally lies to avoid having to admit being defeated by a bunch of aborigenes with primitive weapons. 13:10, 21 May 2007 (UTC)Aubri

Posted by Benjamin H. Abbott on 11-30-2004 08:41 PM:

The cotton vs. steel thing going on in the New World is odd. Heath claims that "Spanish chronicles" assert that Indian obsidian bladed spears could pierce metal corselets but didn't do as well against quilted armor. Heath also quotes Gomara in saying the Aztec obsidan bladed swords could "pierce or nick iron" and Diaz in claiming no armour was of any good against atlatl darts.

And of course Garcilaso de la Vega is quoted as saying that quilted armor turned arrows better than mail and "inferior plate." In all it makes me wonder about the quality of the armor the Spanish were using in America.

On the other hand, Cortes talks about the cavalry being very resistent to Indian weapons because it was well armored ("bien armado").

It's also strange how the Spanish never seem to have any trouble punching through Indian cotton armor (presumably similar to what many of the Spanish themselves were wearing), or at least never mention it.

Posted by Bret B. Dusic on 11-30-2004 09:34 PM:

I wonder if the reason that the Obsidian tips were less effective against the cotton armor was because they didnt 'react' to the cotton armor the way they would with steel.

I am more than willing to bet that when an obsidian tip hit a steel protection point that it shattered, sending shards of glass into any exposed area or even resulting in pits of glass getting caught under the armor and thus resulting in cuts or simmilar wounds.

Discussion references: Armies of the Sixteenth Century 2: The armies of the Aztec and Inca Empires, other native peoples of the Americas, and the Conquistadores 1450-1608 by Ian Heath. Foundry Books, 1999. Chock full of useful info and nice little line drawings.

Arms and Armor in Colonial America 1526-1783 by Harold L. Peterson. Originally published in 1956, this is the Dover reprint from 2000. Slightly dated, but still holds up really well. Plenty of black-and-white photos of arms and armor, from the time of the Conquistadores to the American Revolution. Interesting excerpts from period accounts are included, regarding weapons and armor. A great book (and Oakeshott was a fan of Peterson, FWIW).

The Conquistadores by Terence Wise. Osprey Man-At-Arms series, 1980 (1988 reprint). The original Osprey Conquistadore book, and still the best. Color plates by Angus McBride.

The Conquistador 1492-1550 by John Pohl. Osprey Warrior Series, 2001. IMO this book is inferior to Wise's; Pohl has an annoying tendency to play the part of the historical revisionist (as with his negative comments concerning Columbus), and he sometimes just gets things plain wrong, as when he describes landsknechts as "Swiss pikemen" (and frankly, a research archeologist from UCLA should know better). Still a useful book, but problematic. Decent color plates by Adam Hook.

References and book commentary by David Black Mastro.

The reason why the Obsidian blades did worse against Cotton armour is because the cotton armour (like I believe Kevlar and Mylar is designed to do as well) slows the weapon down, thus reducing it's momentum and thus striking power. It does this by basically being made up of fibres, the cotton fibres catches the weapon blade, tangles it up and slows it down. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:05, 4 November 2013 (UTC)

Bearing surface?[edit]

In the first paragraph, what is meant by "bearing surface?" It links to the Bearing dab article, but that didn't help me understand it. Is it as simple as "the surface that bears the dart" or am I missing something? Thanks, Throbblefoot 18:29, 13 November 2005 (UTC)

I wrote that sentence, and it's bothered me since then, but I couldn't think of better way to phrase it. This surface acts like a bushing, in that it has to hold a load while offering a slick surface to slide against. I'll go ahead and re-link it to the type of bearing that I meant to refer to.--Joel 23:10, 13 November 2005 (UTC)
Thanks! The new link is much more helpful! Throbblefoot 23:21, 13 November 2005 (UTC)


The Wall Street Journal gave the pronunciation as (basically) rhyming with 'battle-battle' in an 18 Jan. 2006 article, and I also heard it used that way by Peter Woodard in the "Stone-Age Weapons" episode of Conquest, but the 'at-lat-uhl' pronunciation seems more common to me. Can someone cite a reference as to the correct pronunciation? JJL 15:50, 5 June 2006 (UTC)

Also, the IPA given (['a.tɬatɬ]) does not match the “.Wav file featuring the pronunciation of 'atlatl'” link – compare the sound at ɬ. -Ahruman 21:18, 14 September 2006 (UTC)
I've always heard the atu-latul from my anthropology classes (or something like that, I'm bad with writing out pronounciations). So that seems closer to the "battle-battle" version. Ungovernable ForceThe Wiki Kitchen! 00:14, 15 September 2006 (UTC)
Like JJL, I've also heard the 'attle-attle' pronunciation, and would like some solid source citation for the 'at-lahtl' pronunciation claimed here. ThuranX 00:22, 24 September 2006 (UTC)
If this isn't too self-referential, says, "ät-lätl". At we have "/ˈɑtˌlɑtl/" or "[aht-laht-l]". My (hard)copy of Webster's says "(ät'lät'l)" in its pronunciation section for that word (stress on the first syllable if it's not clear from that formatting....) Personally, I'd never heard the four-syllable "attle-attle" pronunciation until I read it here, and I've never seen it noted that way anywhere else.... Geeman 12:49, 24 September 2006 (UTC)

Nahuatl is not a dead language. It's spoken by millions of living speakers in Mexico. There is no short 'a' sound in Nahuatl, rather all 'a's are pronounced as long 'a'. This is frequently spelled as "ah" in English. In Nahuatl the emphasis is on the second to the last syllable, in this case the first two letters: "at". Most nouns end in "tl", "tli" or "in". Yes, it is possible in Nahuatl to pronounce "tl" with no vowel in between the consonants. I would spell it as "AHT lahtl". I am trying to figure our IPA notation but It looks to me like the IPA pronunciations are wrong. The first pronunciation at (the one from Unabridged) is close but the speaker pronounces the final "tl" as if has a vowel in between the two consonants i.e. "tel". This is wrong. The second one is wrong.—Preceding unsigned comment added by Senor Cuete (talkcontribs) 01:50, 22 September 2008 (UTC)

According to Frances Karttunen's An Analytical Dictionary of Nahuatl, the <h> in this context represents a glottal stop, as there is no [h] sound in Nahuatl. This is explicitly distinguished from vowel length, which is spelled with a macron, <Ā Ē Ī Ō>, in said dictionary. The entry for the word in question is spelled AHTLATL, not ĀTLATL (entries are in all capitals). Also, the combination <tl> is always a single affricate consonant, so it can't be divided by a syllable boundary. The correct IPA for the Classical Nahuatl word is therefore ['aʔ.tɬatɬ]. -- Goueznou, (talk) 21:19, 26 April 2009 (UTC)

Sources for the History section[edit]

It would be good to have more specific sources for some of the statements in the History section. For example, the word "atlatl" does not even turn up when I use's "search inside this book" function with Wise's The Conquistadores. I see that several reference books are mentioned in the Armor Piercing section here on the Discussion page, but would like to know which ones were actually used for the Aztec/Conquistador paragraph in the main article. Catawba 02:04, 16 August 2006 (UTC)

Convert Imperial Mesurements To SI Units[edit]

Please put the imperial mesurements in SI units please.100110100 23:31, 16 September 2006 (UTC)

Hook?? Vs. Cup?[edit]

What is a '...hook...'? I changed, '...It consists of a shaft with a hook, in which the butt of the spear rests....' to '...It consists of a cup, in which the butt of the spear rests....'.100110100 23:45, 16 September 2006 (UTC)

This page should be renamed?[edit]

as it deals with much more than atlatls - all the Palaeolithic European and Asian examples, for starters. Or maybe the bits about the Old World examples should be split out into a separate article? 20:42, 29 December 2006 (UTC)

As the woomera gets a separate page, how about a general page on 'spearthrowers' with all the Old World egs, linked to pages on atlatls (used in their close geographic sense) and woomeras. I live in the uK, studied archaeology and have never heard the term atlatl: spearthrower is used for the old world egs. 20:47, 29 December 2006 (UTC)
I arrived here because of an atlatl link on haida, where it looked out of place; spear-thrower is what I've always seen for these objects, and like you I've never seen them assumed to be named atlatl for purposes anywhere outside of Mexico. I've only every seen spear-thrower, though with a hyphen as you can see. This move will require a formal "move/rename" process , though I don't see a POV quarrel about it. The main problem is that even if I put it in the Haida article as Spear-thrower on a redirect, eventually someone will remove the redirect and the atlatl name will again reappear in the Haida article ,when it doesn't belong; the same argument applies to any other culture where spear-throwers were used (which were many). The Haida have their own name for it, of course....Skookum1 (talk) 22:13, 30 November 2008 (UTC)
I'd suggest, turning the current spear-thrower redirect into an article on the type of generic object used in many cultures. However, retain this atlatl article to concentrate on the precolumbian weapon (only) & its particular cultural contexts. Similarly, woomera and any other culture-specific versions out there can be retained separately as well, with cross-references on the spearthrower article. --cjllw ʘ TALK 04:09, 1 December 2008 (UTC)
I think the atlatl merits its own page. Consider the cited academic articles on it by name and e.g. the World Atlatl Association. Perhaps other variants also merit a page; we have pages for many types of swords, after all. JJL (talk) 15:09, 1 December 2008 (UTC)

I think we should have a spear-thrower page , which links to Atlal, Wooomera etc. -- cheers, Michael C. Price talk 11:46, 1 July 2011 (UTC)

Yes, the current situation is wrong, as people have been complaining for years (without any rebuttal), & I think I will shortly do something about it. I'm not sure that there is enough material specific to Atlatl or Wooomera to main separate articles necessary at the moment. Johnbod (talk) 15:16, 4 September 2011 (UTC)

Aztec adoption of the atlatl[edit]

"The Aztecs reinvented the atlatl after the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores in their lands and they were used extensively during the resulting war."

If I remember correctly, in "El Museo Nacional de Atropología" in Mexico City there is a facsimile of a codex that records the migration of the Mexica (pronounced "me SHEE ca"), improperly called "Aztecs, from their legendary land of origin, "Aztlan," to the shores of Lake Texcoco (tesh CO co), that is where Mexico City is now located. The codex was purely pictorial but was accompanied by a narrative in Spanish (and maybe in English as well). If memory serves me right, according to this narrative, the Mexica adopted the bow and arrow upon leaving Aztlan, but sometime during the century or so in which they journeyed to Lake Texcoco the Mexica, readopted the atlatl as their favorite means of casting projectiles, at least in battle. Perhaps this readoption was due to a commandment by their tribal god, Hitzilopochtli -- I don't quite remember. But if this account is accurate the Mexica would have "re-invented" the atlatl sometime around the year 1300 AD, two hundred years before the Spanish Conquest.

Tim Reagan: 06:03, 13 January 2007 (UTC)

Expired Links[edit]

At least three of the URLs down in the External Links section are expired (dead links). Shouldn't they be removed? I removed one of them recently, but somebody put it back in, so thought I would ask here.

Yes, they should and I just did. It's possible the person didn't realize the link was broken when they reverted you, although you did mention it in an edit summary. Sometimes people just don't pay attention; it happens to the best of us. Ungovernable ForcePoll: Which religious text should I read? 05:24, 18 January 2007 (UTC)
Thanks Force. I thought I had done something wrong since I'm new to Wik. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 08:15, 19 January 2007 (UTC).

How does it work?[edit]

Really. How does it work? How, if it is held at the end farthest from the cup, does the dart come out? I assume it's swung (but I don't even know that for sure). That's a pretty glaring flaw in this article. Could someone please explain? Thanks. (talk) 23:09, 18 December 2008 (UTC)

It works by simply increasing the effective length of the throwers arm. Have you seen those plastic things doq walkers use to throw tennis balls? They are modern atlatl.
Nor do they need to be rigid. when I was a child we used to throw bamboo darts by tightly wrapping one end of a knotted string behing the flights and then holding the other end of the string at the dart tip. When you throw it, you let go of the dart but keep hold of the string. Of course, this only works for half the throwing arc because the string can only pull the dart, it cannot push it. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:55, 7 April 2009 (UTC)

Terberger PDF[edit]

Does anybody else get errors loading the Terberger PDF? I saw that an IP editor made a recent edit to the sentence that gives this PDF as its reference, but I was unable to verify the document's content because it can't load properly. Alternatively, does anyone have the book? Wilhelm_meis (talk) 09:30, 22 April 2009 (UTC)

Who is this "History" person then? :-)[edit]

From the article:

"History shows that the Spanish feared the Aztec atlatl above all other weapons."

Who is this History person and how do they show it? :-) A reference please and less anthromorphisation maybe? ... --mgaved (talk) 10:32, 24 April 2009 (UTC) See for a source on this. JF 8:41pm 24 April 2oo9. (talk) 03:45, 25 April 2009 (UTC) Less anthromorphisation? Huh? Are the Spanish not people too? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:14, 12 May 2009 (UTC)

History will teach us nothing - however history teachers will!·Maunus·ƛ· 01:18, 12 May 2009 (UTC)

Caution on Datation[edit]

Spearthrower use is evidenced during the Upper Paleolithic of western Europe, from the Upper Solutrean (+/- 17,500 BP) until the beginning of the Upper Paleolithic (+/- 12,500 BP) in southwest France, Switzerland, eastern Germany and Spain (Cattelain 1988, 1989; Cattelain and Stodiek 1996; Stodiek 1993).

In Projectile technology, edited by Heidi Knecht, 1997, New York: Plenum Press, 408 p. ISBN: 0-306-45716-4

The Wiki datation reference comes from a popularizing work, with old references (1930)! There has been some improvement in archaeology... —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:23, 25 July 2009 (UTC)


Atlatl are sometimes used in modern times for hunting. There are meetings and events where people can throw darts. There is one in Rhode Island and one in Lexington held yearly.

Please this is an encyclopedia let's try to be more specific. There are according to Wikipedia 21 places in the United States named Lexington. I am guessing from a quick Google search that you refer to Lexington KY but I can't be sure so I wont edit. Please state which Lexington you mean. Thanks. (talk) 03:13, 30 August 2009 (UTC)

Link missing[edit]

I just noticed that there is no link to the corresponding article in German, named "Speerschleuder". ( After some searching I discovered the article exists. ) I would put it in, if I knew, how to... — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:55, 26 September 2011 (UTC)

Spear-thrower merged[edit]

I have merged the content from Spear-thrower, which was nearly a duplicate article, into this article. It was split out back in September 2011 by User:Johnbod in this edit[1], but copied a lot of the content; this article is the older and better-developed one. I'm no expert on the subject, but the large crossover between the articles suggests there was no need for separate ones. It seems to me that 'atlatl' and 'spear-thrower' are simply different names used for the same broad category of device. Robofish (talk) 20:00, 8 May 2013 (UTC)

You should have raised it before, not after. Spear-thrower was in fact longer and "better-developed". The general name Spear-thrower should be used if they are merged. Note the many sections above complaining before the articles were demerged. Rename proposal added below. Johnbod (talk) 22:48, 8 May 2013 (UTC)
This was a really bad merge. In ictu oculi (talk) 04:50, 10 May 2013 (UTC)

Requested move[edit]

The following discussion is an archived discussion of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. Editors desiring to contest the closing decision should consider a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the move request was: There is consensus to move this article to Spear-thrower, though there also appears to be support to split (undo the merge). Nathan Johnson (talk) 15:51, 27 May 2013 (UTC)

AtlatlSpear-thrower – Article just merged (without any prior discussion) with Spear-thrower, which is the general term used in archeology etc for this form of tool and weapon found from prehistory all over the world. Atlatl was the Aztec word for them (and there is nothing about Aztec use in the article) and has in recent decades been used by American sporting revivalists. It is unknown outside the Americas, and not even used by archeologists except for Mesoamerica. Per WP:COMMONALITY we should use the term which is understood worldwide. Johnbod (talk) 23:06, 8 May 2013 (UTC)

I would notify WikiProject Australia of this discussion before taking any decision based on assuming that the Woomera article can be merged as easily as the mesoamerican one was. In ictu oculi (talk) 04:53, 10 May 2013 (UTC)
  • Rename as "spear-thrower" per reasons given above. Kelly hi! 00:40, 9 May 2013 (UTC)
  • No. Referred to as Atlatl at least in the USA. Senor Cuete (talk) 01:51, 9 May 2013 (UTC)Senor Cuete
Yes, we know that. It says so in the nom. Even American archeologists only use it for Mesoamerica. Johnbod (talk) 03:42, 9 May 2013 (UTC)
  • Strongly support per longstanding suggestions including mine. Richard Keatinge (talk) 11:05, 9 May 2013 (UTC)
  • Support (second choice), but preferably demerge This was a poor merge and should be undone. A generic article should fork off to the Greek ankule, Aztec Atlatl, and Australian woomera. But there are dozens of similar though not identical ancient devices. In ictu oculi (talk) 04:39, 10 May 2013 (UTC)
  • Split. Red Slash 01:25, 15 May 2013 (UTC)
  • Split We might as well merge katana, claymore, et al. into sword. --BDD (talk) 19:18, 15 May 2013 (UTC)
It would be useful if "splitters" could comment on a 2nd title preference for the article as is, as In ictu did. I'll say I originally split the article a while back (see previous sections) but as there has been little expansion since then, I'm now rather neutral on re-splitting. Johnbod (talk) 22:28, 15 May 2013 (UTC)
Sorry, I thought it was clear from the move request--to the status quo pre-merge. Red Slash 01:52, 16 May 2013 (UTC)
Yes, but if that doesn't happen, what title should the article have? Johnbod (talk) 04:02, 16 May 2013 (UTC)
I doubly apologize for being unclear. Clearly, spear-thrower even though that title is awkward. Red Slash 22:24, 17 May 2013 (UTC)
The above discussion is preserved as an archive of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page or in a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.

All Wrong[edit]

   The Title of this article should be ATLATL and "Spear Thrower" should re-direct to it.

You wouldn't call a musket a "Lead Thrower". Josh81884 (talk) 02:47, 9 April 2014 (UTC)

No hyphenation[edit]

According to the Wikipedia style guide, two words should be hyphenated if they are used as an adjective or an adverb, but not when used as a noun, so spear thrower shouldn't be hyphenated. According to sometimes these are hyphenated if one of the words is a verb. Senor Cuete (talk) 16:01, 12 May 2014 (UTC)

Several Issues[edit]

The article states in the Design section, "Several Stone Age spear-throwers (usually now incomplete) are decorated with carvings of animals: the British Museum has a mammoth, and there is a hyena in France. Many pieces of decorated bone may have belonged to batons de commandement."

This sentence is unclear. Does the British Museum have an atlatl with a CARVING of a mammoth or is it made of mammoth bone with carvings on it?" I'm assuming the carvings feature mammoths and hyenas but this is not totally clear and the sentence is ambiguous. Since there is no citation for the claim it is impossible to check what the original author meant by this.

Further down in the article in the bâtons de commandement section the last sentence reads, "Another theory is that they were "arrow-straighteners", and the examples in the 1920 illustration at right are so labelled."

There is NO illustration to the right which leads me to believe that the image was either removed or the person who added this information was copy and pasting it from elsewhere. Either way it is a problem. (talk) 16:23, 8 April 2015 (UTC)

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External links modified[edit]

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Shöningen spears were not atlatl darts[edit]

I'm deleting the sentence on the Shoningen Spears. These have been demonstrated to be thrusting or throwing spears, and not atlatl darts. See the second paragraph of the Introduction in Shea, John J. 2006. "The Origins of Lithic Projectile Point Technology: Evidence from Africa, the Levant, and Europe." Journal of Archaeological Science 33(6): 823-846. — Preceding unsigned comment added by KolnirGigja (talkcontribs) 16:18, 22 June 2016 (UTC)