The atlatl (pronounced “AHT-lah-tuhl”) is the weapon that transformed early humans from scavengers into big-game hunters. Evidence of the atlatl has been discovered on every continent except Africa. It is believed by many archeologists to date back 30,000 years in Europe, and probably 12,000 years in Missouri, to the time of the great hunters who stalked mammoth and bison across land that now supports so many deer.
At its most basic, the atlatl is a stick, usually about 2 feet long, with a handle on one end and a hook or spur on the other end. A dart, which can range from 4 to 8 feet long, is placed against the hook and held parallel to the atlatl. The dart is launched, using an arm motion similar to throwing a baseball. By flipping the wrist, additional energy is transferred from the arm to the dart.
An atlatl dart can be thrown with the same penetrating power as an arrow shot from a 50-pound-draw longbow. Hunting and target range is typically 10 to 30 yards, but the world-record throw is over 848 feet.