Learn About An Ancient Technology

When people think of Native American hunting tools, bows and arrows are among the first things that spring to mind, and with good reason. Just about every Native American community had some form of a bow and arrow. What many people don’t know is that for thousands of years, many Native Americans used a different type of hunting tool. The atlatl is a dart thrower that allows hunters to throw a dart or spear farther and faster than by hand alone.

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On Saturday, May 22 the Institute for American Indian Studies in Washington, Connecticut will be hosting an in-person Atlatl Workshop from 12 noon to 2 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. that will highlight the many uses of this ancient technology, how to make your own atlatl, and how to throw it. Essentially an atlatl is a dart thrower that allows hunters to throw a dart or arrow farther and faster than by hand alone.

If you like to make things with your hands, and throwing sports, don’t miss this intriguing workshop. Participants will learn about the history of the atlatl, one of the first true weapon technologies developed by cultures from all over the world. Different designs of this useful ancient tool that is both a projectile and launching device used by Native Americans will be a highlight. Under the guidance of the Institute’s Educator, Susan Scherf, participants will learn about the different designs of the atlatl before making their own atlatl and dart.

The fun really begins when participants learn how to use their newly made atlatl and seeing how much farther their dart travels. The atlatl session ends with a friendly atlatl throwing competition. If you become an atlatl fan, you might end up competing in atlatl competitions that are held throughout the world!

There are two time slots for this workshop, one at 12 noon to 2 p.m. and the next one is at 2 pm. – 4 p.m. The Atlatl Workshop is $30 for members of the Institute and $40 for non-members and, an adult must accompany participants under 18. To reserve your spot for this fun and educational workshop https://www.iaismuseum.org/event/atlatl-making-workshop-in-person or call 860-868-0518 or email general@iaismuseum.org. Masks and social distancing are required.

About the Atlatl

An atlatl is one of humankind’s first mechanical inventions that preceded the bow and arrow in most parts of the world. Basically, an atlatl is a type of lever that was used to throw a spear farther and faster towards the quarry. The word atlatl comes from the Nahuatl language of the Aztecs who were using them when the Spanish arrived in the 1500s.

According to the World Atlatl Association, early people in the Americas used atlatls to hunt mammoths and mastodons around 11,000 years ago. Much later, a variety of atlatl types were used in different parts of North America. 

Atlatls continued to be used alongside bows and arrows by many Native Americans after the introduction of the bow.

Typically the projectile point or spear point was made of stone such as chert using a process known as flint knapping. The point was attached to a wooden shaft made of hardwood such as ash, hickory, oak, cedar, walnut, or birch.

In time, an atlatl weight was added to the spear thrower as a counter-balance. Weights became more stylized and ornate using fine stone like banded slate to make each piece a unique work of art.

About The Institute for American Indian Studies (IAIS)

Located on 15 woodland acres the IAIS preserves and educates through archeology, research, exhibitions, and programs. We have an outdoor replicated 16th c. Algonkian Village, the award winning Wigwam Escape and a Museum with temporary and permanent displays of authentic artifacts from prehistory to the present that allows visitors to foster a new understanding of the world and the history and culture of Native Americans. The Institute for American Indian Studies is located on 38 Curtis Road in Washington Connecticut.



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