Atlatling in Austin

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017

Austin seems like the kind of town where you’d see someone throwing spears at the park with an atlatl:

“It’s the rawest form of hunting tool,” says the co-founder and CEO of meat-based superfoods company Epic Provisions. Mr. Collins, 34, is a recreational bow hunter based in Austin, Texas, who only has time for a few hunting trips each year. Two years ago, he was researching historical hunting methods and discovered the atlatl (pronounced at-LA-tal).

Atlatl Photo by Matthew Mahon

A version of the atlatl, a hunting tool that predates the bow and arrow, may have first been used around 30,000 years ago in Europe and 11,000 in North America, according to the World Atlatl Organization. The word comes from the Nahuatl languages spoken in Mexico and other parts of Central America.

It lengthens the arm like an extra joint, making it possible to throw a spear farther and with more force than with one’s bare hands. It works similarly to a throw stick for dogs playing fetch.

Atlatls typically range from 18 to 24 inches long. One end has a hook and the other a hand hold. The hook connects to the back end of the spear, which is 5 to 6 feet long and thicker than an arrow. Throwers hold the atlatl at eye level and step in the direction of the target as they use their arm and wrist to throw the spear forward. The end of the atlatl flips around, pushing the spear forward with added force.

Mr. Collins played baseball in high school and likens the motion to throwing a pitch. He finds atlatl throwing meditative. “You really get in a zone and forget any worries,” he says.


  1. Harper's Notes says:

    Staff sling. I find this much more interesting. Harder to detect in archeological record (simpler components.) Easier to make. Probably easier to operate. Doesn’t require spears, only stones. Invention date unknown, but possibly goes back indefinitely. Seems to have been used in military history indefinitely far back in time. (The terms for ranged weapons were so general and undefined, e.g. translated ‘slingers’.) Simplest version would be something like an Atlatl using a rock/pebble instead of a spear. Likely, seems to me, where Atlatls developed from. For an amusing video search you tube for Perfect Staff Sling Shot.

  2. Bruce says:

    I’d rather stand next to a guy drinking beer and throwing a spear with an atlatl than stand next to a guy drinking beer and whirling a sling around his head.

    Some of the ‘flails’ in Egyptian art look like staff slings to me.

  3. Isegoria says:

    Back in 2005, Pennsylvania was discussing legalizing atlatl hunting. Apparently the proposal didn’t go through, but Alabama and Missouri allow atlatl hunting of deer.

  4. Isegoria says:

    NPR actually discussed the atlatl — and how a meat-eating diet may have made us smarter! — back in 2010.

  5. Isegoria says:

    The sling has many advantages over the bow.

  6. Slovenian Guest says:

    That’s the perfect gift for Joe Rogan!

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