Chestertown, MD, April 9, 2004 — Long before the Atkins Diet was the craze, ancient humans stalked “big game” to keep family and village supplied with their daily requirement of protein. With the invention more than 40,000 years ago of a small but ingenious device—the Atlatl—our ancestors vastly improved their chances of survival in their life-or-death, hunt-or-die existence. Washington College's Anthropology Club, in celebration of Archaeology Month, will exhibit this early advance in hunting technology with a free public demonstration of Atlatl spear throwing, Sunday, April 18, 1-3 p.m. on the Campus Lawn. Tours of the College's Archaeology Laboratory will be held 4-6 p.m. the same day at the Custom House on High and Water Streets in Chestertown.
The Atlatl (from the Aztec word for “spear thrower”) is a device that imparted incredible mechanical and technical advantage to prehistoric humans. Increasing spear velocity 15 times and striking power 200 times, Atlatls were used worldwide prior to the advent of the bow and arrow. The oldest known Atlatl artifact is more than 19,000 years old, although it is believed that the Atlatl was in common use more than 40,000 years ago. An example of how human technology directly affects the natural environment, the Atlatl provided a tremendous hunting advantage and, conversely, might have contributed to the extinction of many large mammals throughout the world. The power that the Atlatl imparted to the spear was so great that the Aztecs readopted the technology for its armor-piercing ability against Spanish Conquistadors in the Sixteenth Century. The Atlatl is now attracting thousands of enthusiasts around the world for sport and competition throwing.
As part of the demonstration, participants will have a hands-on chance to test their ability and accuracy of throwing using the Atlatl by spearing a seven-foot tall straw target, “Murray, the Mastodon,” constructed by the Washington College Anthropology Club. Instruction will be provided and safety precautions maintained. For more information, contact Liz Seidel, staff archaeologist, at 410-810-7164.