History of the Fingerless or “Y” Atlatl

Prior to 1990 or so I came up with a design for an atlatl that later turned into the “Wyalusing” It was the first atlatl ever recorded to have “rests”. I have looked for other examples that may have existed prior to this but has only found one type of atlatl that had any type of rest. That particular type of atlatl is from Indonesia. However that style of rest was used differently as the thumb was used to press the dart against the side of a protrusion coming out of the side of the atlatl, rather than the index finger and thumb or just the index finger holding the dart in a shallow groove.

In 1991 I went to Flint Ridge Ohio where I met Carl Fry who was also interested in atlatls. We started showing some flintknappers how atlatls worked and other people joined in. I proudly displayed my newly designed atlatl which was to eventually become the one named the “Wyalusing”. Among those who joined the group was none other than Ray Strischek. I remember well the day I taught Ray how to use the atlatl. I remember him because of his red hair and how he was so thrilled with the atlatl.

Another atlatlist from that time was Robert Stewart from Cincinatti Ohio. Bob Stewart made a version of my atlatl that changed the design of the “Wyalusing” a little so that no fingers were needed to hold the dart on the rest. Ray then went home and came up with the first “Y” atlatl. And on it went through a few other atlatlists including Chuck Butorjac and Terry Keefer. Many others made various versions of the “Y” atlatl but there needs to be no conjecture from whence it or any atlatl that has a rest on it, came from. You may check out this history through Ray and Bob Stewart.

At the time I had no idea that it was a unique idea but when I received as a gift a book called Zur Technologie der jungpalaeolithischen Sperschleuder by Ulrich Stodiek Pub. 1993 of Germany I looked for examples of atlatls with rests and found none. The book is an exhaustive treatise on atlatls from all over the world. Prior to my designing of precursors to what is now the modern atlatl I don’t believe there was anyone making atlatls that were not based on actual artifacts. So you really don’t have to be vague about the origins of these types of atlatls. All modern atlatls with rests on them are derivative works based originally on mine.

Incidentally, Cheryll and I went out to Flint Ridge almost every year in May and September from 1991 until recently. The atlatl contests that we enjoy today at Flint Ridge are the result of my constant effort over the years making, selling and teaching folks about the atlatl. Ray Strischek really pushed it too. It was sort of like lighting a fuse. The contest at Letchworth started because I ran the Eastern Seaboard contest a couple of years in Apalachin, NY after Gary Fogleman passed it on to me from its original beginnings in State College in Pennsylvania. I took it to Letchworth and ran it for most of the time it was at Trailside.

Gary took it back over recently as I have all I can do to run my atlatl business at the shows. Cheryll and I also brought the atlatl to Pennsic which was really a long shot but it paid off with the Aztec/Cortez connection with the late Middle Ages. Many of the atlatl events that are held around the country (especially in the east) owe their existance to the fact that I have either sold atlatls to tens of thousands of people or at least taught them about them.

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