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The concept of the Bow evolved from harnessing the power released in a flexed stick. That flexing stick was known as an Atlatl.  Also called a "spear thrower" the atlatl was used to throw a 5 to 7 foot "dart" by hunters as far back as the ice age.    Today some states allow enthusiast to hunt with Atlatls and tournaments can be found happening all over the country. 

What is an Atlatl?
Make Your Own Atlatl and Dart
How To Throw an Atlatl
By John Whittaker
My Favorite Resources:

This has the easiest to use Atlatls:

This is an excellent site for darts and Atlatls.

The World Atlatl Association, Inc

All Kinds of Links

What is an Atlatl?

The atlatl is an ancient hunting device used to throw thin spears, called darts. The word atlatl comes from Nuttal's (1891) translation of two Aztec (Nahautl) words... one meaning 'throwing' and the other 'on water.'*
Atlatls were invented at least 20,000 years ago, possibly in several locations and by different cultures. Evidence of their use has been found on all continents, except Antarctica. Their only purpose was to throw pointed projectiles further and with more force than could be thrown by hand. They were the precursors to the bow and arrow and while visually different, both are simple devices using a single point of contact to propel a thin flexible shaft. The point of contact on a bow is the string; on an atlatl it is the spur.

 Atlatls and darts are still used by some hunter/ gatherer societies even to this day. Fishermen in Mexico and South America, hunters in the Australian outback and members of Inuit tribes in the colder climate of the Arctic region continue to make use of them for a variety of reasons, including cultural heritage and hunting.  Even though a historic hunting weapon, atlatls are emerging as a recreational and competitive sport.  Increasingly, hunters looking for the primitive hunting experience are trying them out. Efforts are underway in several states to get this weapon recognized as a legitimate hunting option. Despite the fact that atlatls were used for thousands of years to take various game animals, our biggest obstacle continues to be that few have ever heard of them.