Using an Atlatl Spring 2013

Spring 2013

Students from ANT 112: Introduction to Archaeology Do Experimental


The question posed to the class was this:

Does the use of an atlatl (a spear thrower) significantly increase the distance someone can throw a dart?

The results were surprising.

On average, students were able to increase their distance over 10 meters (or 33 feet) by using the atlatl. This was significant, since this was their first attempt, with no prior training. Students all agreed that with more training, that would improve.

Unfortunately, none of the students hit our target (a cardboard box at 50 m – or 165 ft). So it didn’t matter how far everyone threw their darts.

If we were really out there hunting, we’d all be “going hungry.”

(Of course, in hunting and gathering societies, we would probably expect to collect much of our food, anyway.)

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One thought on “Using an Atlatl Spring 2013

  1. Experiential learning like this is vital to understanding the past. Replication experiments are the closest archaeologists can come to the anthropological approach of immersive learning and participant observation. The results are less important than the experience, so be very happy with what you have learned. On a related note, Neanderthals have injury patterns comparable to rodeo clowns, showing they ran right up to their prey. Anatomically modern humans have muscle development that indicates exactly this kind of movement, so you have begun to experience one of the characteristics that helped define us as a species.

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