Friday, November 21, 2014

Ancient Atlatl (c. 23,000 B.C.E.)

Early humans extended spear-throwing range.

When Spaniards first met the Aztecs in around 1500, the explorers were horrified when their armor was easily penetrated by the Aztec throwing darts. The Aztecs achieved this feat with the atlatl, a simple device used by many ancient peoples for long-range hunting, It probably dated from around 23,000 B.C.E.
 The atlatl consists of a throwing board and a dart about 6 feet long. The board, typically about 2 feet long, has a spur at its end, THe dart's rear is cut down the middle so that it fits onto the spur like two fingers around a card.

Gripping a handle at the front end of the throwing board, the atlatl thrower an hurl the dart with considerably more force than he could by hand.
During the thrower's tennis swing-like motion, the flexible dart flexes and energy builds up. The dart is weighted with a stone tip and often another counterweight to azimize the buildup of energy.

When the atlatl dart is released, the spring energy in the flexible  dart is added to the forward force, accelerating the dart to speeds that can exceed 100 miles per hour. The atlatl was so effective at bringing down prey that some scholars speculate it may have played a significant role in the extinction of the North American wooly mammoth. Now, at least 25,000 years after its invention, the atlatl is still used by enthusiastic hobbyists.