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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.

Atlatl Equipment and Preparations for Big Game Hunting

Anyone who plans to hunt big game with an atlatl needs to consider several important things in preparation for the hunt.

A large part of a successful hunt is good preparation.

You will need to do at least the following to prepare properly:

  1. Find a venue where you can hunt legally and with permission.
  2. Obtain darts that are the proper dimensions for the game you intend to kill. Make sure you have enough darts so that when you break or loose them you have plenty of replacements. Bring replacement parts and repair equipment.
  3. Choose an atlatl that works well with your darts. Remember on most hunts you will need to hold your darts ready for long periods of time. If holding your dart in the ready position causes cramping or stiffness in your hand you will need to take steps to correct this.
  4. Select or make dart points that are legal for the venue you plan to hunt and make sure that they are properly sharpened. Some states and localities require certain sizes or shapes of points.
  5. Allow yourself ample time and space to prepare yourself physically and mentally. You need meaningful practice at the various distances and elevations that you will encounter on your hunt. A few shots at a beer can after a two day road trip will not be enough. Practice at home for months and when you get to your location give yourself a chance to warm up by taking several shots. Keep your muscles ready by devising exercises you can do that do not call attention to your location. I use isometric exercises while sitting in my tree stand to help keep me ready to shoot.
  6. Gather together the accessories you will need on your hunt and make sure everything is working properly.
  7. Select your hunting partners well. Nothing spoils a hunt worse than having hunters with you who don’t share your values and morals.
  8. Make good plans with your hunting comrades so you know where they are and what to do in various circumstances. When certain circumstances arise be ready to react. You never know what is going to happen during a hunt but you can anticipate various scenarios such as what to do when someone makes a hit.

I will work on this more. This is part of an atlatl hunting book I am writing.

Bob Berg

The Atlatl Dart Point That Changed My Life

When I was in 8th grade I found a dart point on the edge of the newly built ball field. I was running laps during track practice and that dark shiny object caused me to stop and investigate. This was an epiphany in my life; a split second chance happening that changed everything that would follow. Its effects didn’t happen right away, but later is when I was much older. The shadow of that event was like a hard shelled seed fallen to the ground waiting to germinate and blossom when the right conditions made it favorable.

I held that point in my sweaty hand for the next few days, even at night when I went to bed. I wanted so much to know about the person who made that object that I dreamed about him. When my son Peter was learning how to read I took him to the local library to peruse the books in the children’s section. Meanwhile I took the opportunity to read everything I could in the section of the shelves dedicated to archaeology and anthropology. It was that point that drew me into reading all those books. I now know that it was a mid archaic point made by a man who lived along the Susquehanna River perhaps a dozen or more centuries ago. Part of the spirit of that man who shot that atlatl dart so many centuries ago was reborn in me and made me into who I am today.

State Hunting Law Information

An Open Letter To The Pennsylvania Game Commission

Pennsylvania Archaeologists have long known of the use of the atlatl in Pennsylvania’s prehistory. The atlatl and dart were used by the native population for hunting and fishing for longer than 13,000 years. It is therefore likely that more game has been taken in Pennsylvania using atlatls and darts than with modern weapons including guns and compound bows. It is an accident of history that the cultures that used the atlatl were displaced by European immigrants causing the use of them to be lost and nearly forgotten. It was only in the distant backwaters of our planet that vestiges of the atlatl’s use were still found by anthropologists. Even with this knowledge the atlatl was largely a mystery with no one knowing and understanding its usefulness as a superb hunting and fishing weapon.

In recent years there has been a resurgence in the use of the atlatl, but most people have used it for target shooting. The atlatl has provided Pennsylvanians and many other people who have traveled to Pennsylvania from as far away as Europe to enjoy this unique outdoor activity. Pennsylvania atlatlists count themselves as some of the highest scoring atlatl contestants in the world at the many atlatl meets that take place.

Meanwhile atlatl enthusiasts have also redeveloped atlatls for hunting and fishing. There are a few places where the atlatl is currently legal for hunting and fishing. Various hunting and fishing expeditions to these places in the spirit of rediscovering atlatl hunting and fishing techniques have proven the effectiveness of the atlatl in these sports. Hunting and fishing atlatl gear has been developed and tested that has proven to be effective for harvesting big game, small game, and rough fish.

Many atlatlists dream of a day when The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania allows the use of the atlatl during the archery seasons, with its status the same as a bow and arrow. Because of its similarity to the bow and arrow the atlatl would fit in with the archery seasons without causing any harm to the repose of the archery hunters and fishers.

Our task is to help educate and expose the public to this intriguing weapon and to ask Pennsylvanians to support us in our endeavor to bring back the atlatl to the fields and forests where it has been absent for so many years.

Bob Berg

State Hunting laws concerning the atlatl and dart

Alabama: The use of an atlatl to throw a spear is permitted. The regulation only requires the spear to be hand thrown. Hope this answered your question. If I can be of any further assistance please contact me.
Craig Hill, Assistant Chief
Law Enforcement Section

Alaska: I have been asked to respond to your question concerning the use of an atlatl to take game in Alaska. After reviewing hunting regulations, I do not believe there is a prohibition on using an atlatl. While an atlatl can be used statewide in hunts without weapons restrictions, all other hunting statutes and regulations do apply and I recommend you review our regulations to determine the species, season and location you would like to hunt. Once you have decided when, where and what you want to hunt, you can determine if an atlatl is an appropriate and legal method for taking the game.
If you have additional questions or I can be of further assistance, I can be reached by reply email or by phone at (907) 465-6197.
Ryan Scott
Wildlife Biologist

Arizona: please refer the Hunting Regulations Manual at the following link (go to pages 61-62 for legal methods of take R12-4-304):…t_regs.pdf
You may also refer the Fishing Regulations booklet at the following link: (refer to page 47, R12-4-313, lawful methods of take)…w_maps.pdf
Hope this helps. Thank you.

Arkansas: The state of Arkansas does not have any regulation or season where using an atlatl is legal, so therefore it cannot be used as hunting/fishing equipment in the state.
Information Officer
Arkansas Game & Fish Commission
#2 Natural Resources Drive
Little Rock, Arkansas 72205

California: There is no direct reference in the Code to use of an atlatl. But essentially, the atlatl would be considered a spear.

Hunting opportunities in this state with a spear (atlatl) are limited. No big or small game species could legally be taken with one. However, animals that are classified as “non-game” species could be (coyotes, rodents, opossum, etc). You would first need to obtain a non-resident hunting license.

Spear fishing is allowed in ocean waters. Spear fishing is restricted in inland (fresh) waters. I’ve included the appropriate code section regarding spearfishing in inland waters for your reference. Again, you would need the appropriate license before doing any fishing in CA. Good luck.

Lieutenant Liz Schwall
DFG/ Enforcement Branch
Investigations Unit/CalTIP Program

Colorado: Thank you for taking the time to research the legal use of atlatls in Colorado prior to venturing into the field on a hunting trip here. The atlatl is not a legal method of take for nearly every species of game or fish in Colorado. Our hunting and fishing regulations state that only those methods of take specifically authorized by regulation or statute are allowed in Colorado. The atlatl is not specifically listed and is, therefore, not legal as a hunting weapon in Colorado. The specific regulations in question are #103(A)(fishing); #203(A)(big game); and #302(small game). These regulations are available on the internet for your review at the following link:
Again, thank you for your inquiry.
Mike King
Colorado Division of Wildlife
Policy and Regulation Section

Connecticut: In Connecticut the method of taking wild birds and wild quadrupeds by hunting is defined in our hunting regulations. The regulations restrict hunting to firearms, high velocity air guns using a single ball or pellet type projectile, and compound, long, or recurved bow. As a result, the use of an “atlatl” would not be permitted under our regulations.
Captain Raul Camejo
Connecticut State Environmental Conservation Police

Delaware: According to our regulations you would be o.k. to use your atlatl to fish but would be illegal for hunting in Delaware. Our code is fairly specific as to the method of take for hunting.

Florida: The only legal methods of taking game in Florida are rifles, shotguns, pistols, longbows, compound bows, recurve bows, crossbows and birds of prey. I checked with my Law Enforcement officers and they are familiar with the atlatl, but it cannot be used legally in the state. I hope this helps answer your question. Please contact me if you have additional concerns.
Karen Parker
Public Information Coordinator

Georgia: The spearing of fish, other than game species and all catfish species, is legal in Georgia waters; “….provided the person engaged in the act of spearing is completely submerged.” Therefore, the use of an atlatl is legal for some fish species provided that you are submerged. Thanks for contacting WRD with your question.

Alfred C. Mauldin II
Region III Fisheries Supervisor
Georgia Dept of Natural Resources
Wildlife Resources Division
2123 Hwy 278 SE
Social Circle, GA 30025

*Hawaii: unavailable

Idaho: You would be limited in what you could use the atlatl for in Idaho. It could be used to spear tag carp, which is allowable during a regular fishing season. You will need a fishing license to do that. It would not be legal to use it for big game hunting, but you could use it for hunting forest grouse. You would need to have a small game-hunting license to do that. Please check the regulations for seasons in the area you will be in.

Illinois: It would be an illegal hunting weapon in Illinois. It could be used to spear rough fish, which include carp, carpsuckers, buffalo, sucker, gar (except alligator gar) and bowfin. Spear fishing is not allowed in waters listed as “two pole and line fishing only” in our fishing digest. If you would like a digest, send me your mailing address and I’ll put one in the mail. –
Jill Willis,
Duty Officer, IDNR, Office of Law Enforcement.

Indiana: In hunting, it is permissible to use atlatl for those species for which legal hunting equipment is not set by rule. For example, a person cannot use atlatl to hunt deer, turkey or waterfowl. For a list of our hunting regulations, please see the following link:
Thank you for your interest with the Indiana DNR and Division of Fish and
Dawn Krause
Program Director
Division of Fish and Wildlife
Indiana Department of Natural Resources

Iowa: It would be legal in Iowa to use the device/weapon you described (atlatl) for small game and fish only. Small game and fishing licenses would still be required of course.
Waterfowl; deer and turkey have specific weapon requirements and as a result the “atlatl” would not be legal for hunting these species.

Kansas: An atlatl would be defined as a spear, so it would be legal for non-sport fish – carp, gar, buffalo, etc. – but not sport-fish or hunting.

Kentucky: It is illegal to hunt with and you could only use it for fishing during the gigging season. Fish gigging season for rough fish is February 1 through May 10th.
Billy Mitchell
Information Center
Ky Dept. of Fish & Wildlife Resources
1 Game Farm Road
Frankfort, Ky 40601
1-800-858-1549 ext 324
Fax 502-564-6508

Louisiana: It is not legal in LA to hunt with this or a any other type of spear. We really have not had requests for this. I think Alabama allows it during their archery season.

Maine: This would not be legal in the State of Maine.

Maryland: Hello Jack, I wasn’t sure what a atlatl was so I had to pass your question around. The following link will take you to a summary of our tidal water regulations/rules concerning fishing in tidal waters.…awful.html
If you need any additional information, please feel free to contact Dianne Samuels directly. Her info follows
Paul Genovese
Dianne Samuels
MD Dept of Natural Resources
Fisheries Service B-2
580 Taylor Ave
Annapolis MD 21401
(410) 260-8273
In Tidal Waters: 1. Between June 15 and December 31 of each year, for an individual to take or shoot fish, within specific seasons and limits established by the Department, with a spear gun and spear.
2. To take or shoot, carp, garfish, skate, bull fish, shark, oyster toads, or swelling toads (blowfish), American eel, sea lamprey, stingrays or other ray fish with a spear gun or spear at any time.

Massachusetts: Our hunting and fishing laws are posted on our agency website. Suckers, carp, and snapping turtles are the only species, which may be taken with “spears” in Massachusetts

Michigan: No, such device or a spear or dart is not legal for the taking of game in Michigan. The only legal means of taking game is by firearm, bow and arrow or slingshot. In addition, handicapped persons with a permit may use a crossbow and anyone 14 and older may hunt deer with a crossbow during the November firearm deer season.

*Minnesota: Hello Jack, Sorry for the long delay. But Minnesota only allows for firearm and archery. Not atlatl and unfortunately there are no plans to add that weapon.
good luck
James Abernathy
DNR Information Consultant
500 Lafayette Rd Box 40
St Paul Mn 55155

Mississippi: No. The Atlatl is not currently listed as a weapon legal for hunting or fishing in Mississippi.

Missouri: The Wildlife Code…r/3csr.asp does not mention that implement as a legal method for hunting or fishing. Thanks for your interest in conservation.
Ken Drenon
573/552-4115, ext. 3848

Montana: Game animals, by law and rule in Montana, can only be hunted by licensed hunters with certain, specified weapons – and an atlatl is not one of them. However, non-regulated wildlife may be taken with any type of weapon, any time of year, and no license is required. These include squirrels, porcupine, raccoon, coyote, weasel, skunk, badger and red fox. Fish that you could take with an atlatl would be carp and sucker. Almost all birds are either game animals or protected under federal regulation with the exception of rock dove (pigeons), European sparrows and eastern starlings. I hope this answers your question.

Nebraska: Depending on what you are hunting—it would be legal for rabbits or squirrels. I don’t believe it would be legal device for fishing. You may wish to call me at 404-471-5003. I will also check a couple more regulations out and get back to you—-mj

Nevada: Thank you for your email. You can only use the atlatl to hunt unprotected species in Nevada (such as coyotes or blacktailed jackrabbits) You can find legal weapons listed on page four on this PDF of this section of our Hunt Book…/sec5.pdf.
If you have any other questions, please let us know.
Thank you,
Nevada Department of Wildlife
1100 Valley Road
Reno, NV 89512
(775) 688-1998

New Hampshire: Pursuant to the law here in NH, wildlife may only be taken by “gun fired at arm’s length or bow and arrow, unless otherwise specifically permitted” (trapping is the other method). Fish may only be taken by angling, with the exceptions of:
1. Carp may be taken by bow and arrow with cord attached in the Merrimack River and Mascoma Lake
2. Suckers may be taken between March 1 and May 31 by bow and arrow with cord attached, or spears (in hand)
The atlatl would not be a legal weapon for taking either wildlife or fish here in NH. There would have to be a change in current law through the NH Legislature to allow its use.
I hope this was helpful.
Sgt. Bruce Bonenfant

New Jersey: Since a license is required for hunting, and only firearm and archery licenses are issued, I would presume it is illegal to hunt with an atlatl. I would consider it spear hunting. I’m not sure if it would take legislation or a change in the Game Code to allow it, but either would be unlikely at this point in my opinion. To garner support for it I would suggest becoming involved with the State Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs ( or other group and submit comments to the Fish and Game Council and address the council at the public Game Code hearing held each year. Watch our homepage for an announcement. PT
Paul Tarlowe, Wildlife Education Specialist
The N.J. Division of Fish and Wildlife is a professional, environmentalagency dedicated to the protection, management and wise use of the
state’s fish and wildlife resources.

New Mexico: This weapon is NOT allowed in NM, the chance of it being legal is slim, sorry!
Thank You!!

New York: An atlatl, or spear, is currently an illegal implement for use to take fish or wildlife within New York State. There are no current proposals for the DEC to legalize this implement. You may contact the Bureau of Wildlife at to make such a proposal and supply the appropriate justification and documentation. Thank you for your inquiry to what appears to be an interesting device. If I can be of any additional assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me. I can be reached at 518-402-8814 Sincerely, Colonel Robert T. Lucas Assistant Director

North Carolina: It is not legal to use an atlatl to hunt or fish with in North Carolina. I have not heard of any movement to make them legal. This is not a rule that the North Carolina Wildlife Commission can enact; it would have to be done by the North Carolina General Assembly.

North Dakota: Atlatl’s are not currently useable in ND. I doubt they will become a legal “weapon” .

Ohio: No, it is not legal to fish with an atlatl in Ohio. There are no plans to change this rule. Thank you.
Div. of Wildlife
1-800-Wildlife (945-3543)

Oklahoma: As long as it is legal to use a spear for specific species, it is legal to use an atlatl. Ex.: with rabbits and squirrels, you can use a hand propelled missile (spear) so you can use an atlatl. With deer, you cannot use a spear, etc.

Oregon: The atlatl can not be used to harvest game fish in the State of Oregon. It is also not a legal weapon to harvest game animals. However, it could be used to hunt “predatory” animals in the State of Oregon such as coyote, rabbit, feral pig and exotic sheep.

Pennsylvania: It is not legal to use in Pennsylvania.

*Rhode Island: unavailable

South Carolina: As far as opportunities to use one in SC. There are 11 Game Zones in the state and the laws establishing season in 8 of the zones specify the weapons that can be used, e.g. bow and arrow or firearms. However, in Zones 3, 6, and 11 (the lower coastal plain) there is no mention of specific weapons, only the season dates. Therefore, it would not be a problem using the atlatl in those zones. You may get some funny looks but that is not the question.

South Dakota: An atlatl could be used to spear fish where and when the spearing season is open as spears are legal. But as far as for small or big game, they would not be allowed. There are restrictions on pull and etc on archery seasons, muzzle energy on firearms and these devices do fit any of that. SDCL 41-8 is pretty clear on how most critters can be taken. I attached the law on small game. There are several laws that pertain to big game for each type of allowed weapon type.
41-8-31. Hunting methods restricted–Violation as misdemeanor. No person may at any time hunt, catch, take, attempt to take, or kill any small game or game animal in any other manner than by shooting the same with a firearm, except:
(1) Game birds and animals may be taken with birds trained in falconry or with bow and arrow;
(2) A disabled person who is missing an upper limb, physically incapable of using an upper limb, or confined to a wheelchair and who has obtained a disabled hunter permit may use a crossbow to take game birds and animals; and
(3) A legally blind person, who is legally licensed, possesses a disabled hunter permit, and is physically present and participates in the hunt but cannot safely discharge a firearm or bow and arrow, may claim game birds and animals taken by a designated hunter in accordance with the license possessed by the legally blind hunter. A violation of this section is a Class 2 misdemeanor.
Thank you for your question.
John Forney
South Dakota Division of Wildlife
Dept. of Game, Fish and Parks

Tennessee: An atlatl is not considered a legal weapon for hunting and/or fishing in the State of Tennessee. If you have further questions, please feel
free to respond to the e-mail.
Cathi Lasater
Law Enforcement Division

Texas: Hello and thanks for your interest. The atlatl is legal for non-game animals and exotics (feral hogs), but it is not a legal means of take for deer. A hunting license is still required. Let me know if you need anything else.
Kristal Cain
Wildlife/ Public Hunting Info
Texas Parks and Wildlife

Utah: No, atlatl is not a legal weapon in Utah. Thank you for contacting us! State of Utah Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division
1594 W North Temple
Salt Lake City, UT 84116

Vermont: It would not be legal in Vermont to use an atlatl for hunting.
John Hall
Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department
103 South Main Street, 10 South
Waterbury, VT 05671-0501

Virginia: VA law prescribes specific weapons that may be used to take wildlife, and prohibits those that are not specified by law. The atlatl would be unlawful for hunting in VA.

Washington: Thank you for your email correspondence to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Fish Program. Evan Jacoby in our Enforcement Division has provided the following response for you:
The atlatl is not a legal hunting method in Washington State. It is also not a legal fishing method, except, possibly, for carp. It is lawful to take carp by spearing. Since there is no restrictive description of the spear, the atlatl dart could be construed to be a spear. This is, however, problematic, as I am unaware anyone has ever speared carp with an atlatl.
Evan Jacoby, Counsel
Fish and Wildlife Legal Services

West Virginia: There is not currently an atlatl season in WV. However, I am unfamiliar with this instrument. If you would care to further describe this instrument it would be very helpful. Please provide your proposal to our wildlife resources general mailbox for their consideration.
Lt. Colonel Bill Daniel, Deputy Chief
WVDNR Law Enforcement Section
Bldg. 3, Capitol Complex
Charleston, WV 25305
Tel: 304.558.2784
Fax: 304.558.1170

Wisconsin: There will be a Conservation Congress advisory question again on the ’05 Spring Hearing questionnaire. The question has failed on two other statewide votes. Currently they are illegal.
Tia N. Kropf
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Internet Manager, Bureau of Wildlife Management
101 S. Webster Street
Madison, Wisconsin 53707
(608) 266-2194

*Wyoming: unavailable

Bannerstones And How They Relate To The Atlatl

Bannerstones and how they Relate to the Atlatl

By Robert S. Berg

Archaeologists have been agonizing for a long time over the use of banner stones. Some have offered that they are atlatl weights or ceremonial pieces. Others have suggested that they are for drilling, cordage making, or fire making. This theory proposes that they are part of a kit of tools used to make and repair atlatl darts. My theory also proposes that there is an interrelated purpose for several common artefacts.

My theory has met with a lot of skepticism and resistance because of the works of William S. Webb, who proposed that the bannerstone was actually part of an atlatl. He sites “in situ”evidence which consists mainly of bannerstones found in line with atlatl handles and hooks in graves that archaeologist dug up during the construction of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s massive water control system in the southeast during the early part of the 20th Century. He proposed these theories without a complete knowledge of how atlatls work. I sincerely doubt that he ever hunted with one or tried to make or repair an atlatl or dart in the field with only stone age style equipment.

By way of proof, I took the hard and durable remains that one finds in almost any Indian artefact collection, and filled in the missing pieces of wood, cordage, glue, feathers, leather and bark, by way of a series of experiments. The experiments were designed to produce working, practical weapons, tools and techniques like what may have been used by the Woodland era American Indian. Then I and my friends field tested them during actual hunting and fishing expeditions. I started out this endeavor not to prove this theory but in a personal quest to learn how to hunt and fish using the atlatl.

I experimented with the bannerstone, gorget, atlatls and darts, celts, projectile points , fire by friction, cordage making, and primitive hunting techniques using mainly the atlatl for more than ten years. Much of what I did required learning and mastering difficult and complex skills such as flint knapping, marksmanship and hunting with an atlatl, atlatl fishing, wood working with stone age style tools, cordage making, tracking, and making fires with friction. I now consider myself to be fairly proficient in all of these skills.

These skills required a lot of practice and a willingness to go places where the resources for learning them were available. The most important of the resources were the people that I encountered on my quest, not to mention the many material things that so many people shared with me along the way. I owe a great deal to people I now consider friends whom I met along the way who shared in my quest.

Many people have asked me what motivated me to do this. When I was about ten, during recess I found a dart point on the newly graded ball field near my school in Apalachin, New York. I remember vividly that artefact could not be pried from my hand for several days. In fact I took it to bed and held it in my hand when I went to sleep the first night I had it. The plowed fields around our farm in Apalachin held many small rounded pebbles of Onondaga chert. I often would pick these small pieces of glacial till up and attempt to make arrow heads out of them. At the time my favorite tool was a pair of fencing pliers. I was never very successful and my life led me on to other things, but in the recesses of my mind lingered a desire to learn more about these things. As my son, Peter learned to read I would often take him to the local library in the evenings and while he perused the children’s books I discovered the archaeology section, which I read from one end to the other.

OK, so now the theory:

The bannerstone was used as a spindle weight to make string to tie on fletching and points , and a spindle weight to turn and taper dart shafts. It was not part of the atlatl at all but was carried in a kit, made from bark or leather, with the atlatl. It was probably fastened by pressure fit onto a round stick about the same length as an atlatl. The kit would most likely also contain a wad of fiber, several flint points, scrapers, pine pitch or other adhesive material, and some feathers for fletching.

We have a model for the use of the bannerstone in the form of the Navajo spindle. The Southwest Indians have been using this design for longer than they remember. The Navajo spindle has a wooden wheel that works just like the bannerstone did in my experiments. In an experiment I contributed to with Erica Tideman of Ohio, who was gathering information for her doctoral thesis, she compared (among other things) the speed of hand cordage making to spindle made cordage. In the time it takes me to produce one foot of hand made cordage (I am very adept at it) I can make three yards of thread on the bannerstone spindle whorl.

A typical dart uses about three yards length of thread to haft the point, whip the shaft behind the point, tie on the fletching and whip the dart shaft in front of the knock dimple. The time saved is enormous considering that on a typical hog hunt I have expended as many as seven darts that I either had to replace because of damage or repair. This use is an effective time and labor saving feature, which alone could explain why bannerstones were carried by early American Indians.

But there is more. In the process of making darts I also used the bannerstone as a fly weight to help to make my darts round and also to taper them. This experiment was partly conducted at Mercyhearst College with Cathy Pedler and several of her students at a dig in Northern Pennsylvania. We cut down an ash tree and split it into dart sized staves using only stone and bone tools. I used flint scrapers to shape the trapezoidal shaped stave into roughly a round shaft. I formed the front end of the shaft so it would fit tightly into the bannerstone and spun the dart powering the device with a simple bow like one would use to start a fire by friction. I used ground flint chips as an abrasive by adding them dry into a cone shaped piece of leather that I held in my left hand around the spinning dart shaft. The result was impressive as this method created a perfectly round shaft that was smooth and consistent.

When you consider the fact that the bannerstone is difficult to make, and balanced in its design so that is dynamically concentric. It was obviously designed to spin in whatever its function was. In its use as an atlatl weight there exists several problems in its practicality.

First and foremost is that atlatls do not spin. The size of the holes in bannerstones are variable from 1/4 inch to over an inch with most of them being about the expected diameter of a typical dart. A quarter inch atlatl shaft is too small and a one inch shaft to large. (Almost all atlatl shaft sizes all lie within an expected parameters which is about on the average one half to a quarter square inch in cross section. The average of cross sections of the 150+ or so broken bannerstones in Gary Fogelman’s collection is a fifth to a sixth of an inch. Too close to call but a significant difference. We examined wear patterns in Gary Fogelman’s collection of broken banner stones. Many have wear patterns that are consistent with the use that I am proposing. Some of the banerstones had been broken and repaired in ancient times literally being sewn back together.

Another problem with the bannerstone is its weight. Many of them simply are too heavy to be atlatl weights. I have seen bannerstones that weigh more than a pound. Most weigh more than 100 grams. Compared with objects known to be atlatl weights the difference is very significant.

Although my experiments and the evidence is certainly not conclusive, it is compelling. What I can say for sure is that there are lots of problems with bannerstones as atlatl weights. Whereas I perceive from my perusal of the evidence that I have been able to check, coupled with a great deal of experience in using atlatls that practical uses for the bannerstone exist that can be easily replicated that prove to be significant advantages to a hunter using an atlatl in stone age America.

Copyright 2004