Native American Atlatl Weight

By William T. Hathaway

Atlatl Weight

Several years ago a student brought two halves of what appeared to have been an Indian artifact that was found in the Kentuck area of Pittsylvania County, Virginia. He had mounted it on a stick, and his so-called stone axe split when first struck on a tree trunk. From a top view a neatly drilled hole was visible; the side view resembled a two-edged weapon. I recognized that the artifact was made of steatite (soapstone) and was outwardly stained due to its aging. I was successful in gluing the two parts together.

Among all possibilities, this six-inch-long artifact could have been a boat-stone, banner-stone, ceremonial piece or a tomahawk. However, after having searched the internet for information and pictures of museum artifacts, I am convinced that this was an atlatl weight. The weight was mounted on the throwing stick to add considerable mechanical advantage in throwing a light weight spear called a “dart.” It is believed that the atlatls were used worldwide before the advent of the bow and arrow. There is some evidence that the Incas and Mayas used atlatls, because launching its high-speed dart could penetrate the armor of the Spanish invaders.