Atlatl Contest This Weekend at Flint Ridge


Atlatl Contest This Weekend at Flint Ridge

The Ohio Atlatl Association will hold demonstration work shops and accuracy competition this weekend (July 14-16) at Flint Ridge State Memorial near Brownsville, Ohio. Atlatls are hooked sticks or handles used to throw flint tipped spears or long shaft darts and the distance and accuracy achieved by an accomplished atlatlist is amazing. I have seen a steel tipped atlatl dart actually penetrate a car door! The modern use of the word atlatl is derived from the Aztec word ahtlatl meaning spear thrower. However, atlatls were used for thousands of years in both the Old World and New Worlds before the advent of the bow and arrow.

In Europe highly decorative atlatl hooks carved in the likenesses of animals both real and imagined have been recovered from numerous cave sites indicating their use during the Upper Paleolithic in that part of the world for perhaps 30,000 years. Many were so intricately carved and detailed that they should rightly be considered works of functional art. In North America less intricate atlatl hooks carved from antler and bone were recovered from Archaic Period sites like Indian Knoll in Kentucky where they were found in direct association with shaped stone weights or banner stones. It is thought that the banner stones were attached to the atlatl to add momentum and aid in both accuracy and distance. Archaeologists believe the use of atlatls in North America goes as far back as the end of the last ice age when they were used to hunt mammoths, mastodons and other great beasts of that time. Was the atlatl a tool that the first people to enter the New World brought with them or was it an independent invention? I guess youll have to be the judge of that. Drop by if you can. Perhaps youll be the next great atlatlist. It isn’t a particularly expensive hobby to take up so why not?.


Flint Ridge State Memorial is the site of ancient flint quarries where for thousands of years people came to mine the flint necessary to make their spear points, knives and other flaked stone tools. Flint Ridge Flint is particularly colorful (the official Ohio gemstone) and highly prized by flint knappers both ancient and modern. There is a museum on site actually built over an ancient quarry pit as well as picnic areas and hiking trails. Flint Ridge State Memorial is located about 50 miles east of Columbus between Newark and Zanesville. Exit I-70 at Brownsvilleand take Route 668 about 4 miles north. From Newark/ State Route 16 take 668 south (at Hanover) about 6 miles. On Saturday at the museum there will be a flint knapper demonstrating how folks long ago made the points used on atlatl darts as well as an archaeologist if you have a box of old arrowheads that you would like to learn more about. Hope to see you at the Ridge.

Bill Pickard

Posted July 12, 2012
Topics: Archaeology

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