Atlatls in America: A Brief Overview

The word “atlatl” is the Aztec word for spear thrower. Our history in North America was greatly affected by the Native Central Americans’ use of the atlatl.

Bernal Diaz’s account of the conquest of New Spain, what is now Mexico, talked extensively of the use of atlatls by the natives, both those on the side of Montezuma and those who allied themselves with the conquistador Cortez.

Archaeologists and anthropologists both have recorded extensive use of the atlatl by Native Americans, who still were using mostly stone tools and stone tipped projectile weapons at the time of European contact. Atlatls continue to be used today in the Amazon Basin as well as in Alaska. Apparently there has been a resurgence in the use of the atlatl among native Alaskans in the Nome area and in the Aleutians and Kodiak Island.

The Conquest of New Spain (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
by Bernal Diaz del Castillo (Author), John M. Cohen (Introduction, Translator) “BERNAL DIAZ DEL CASTILLO

2 thoughts on “Atlatls in America: A Brief Overview”

  1. I disagree with the statement that Native Americans were still in the Stone Age at time of contact. They were using and trading copper in many areas. The social markers of the Stone Age do not correlate with the cultural complexity exhibited by these people at the time of contact. I feel it would be beneficial to the integrity of the article to remove this misinformation.

  2. I didn’t mean this in any negative stereotypical context, but that Native Americans used mostly stone tools at the the time of contact. I will re-word that part of the article.

    I have made a study of native copper culture artifacts from the Keweenaw Peninsula so I am aware of the use of copper by Native Americans. I make conical copper points for atlatl darts based on this research.

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