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Old 23rd November 2008, 12:29 PM   #1
Tim Simmons
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Default Woomera N.Territory?

Got this today, the best one I have ever had. I know we do not talk about that dirty stuff called money but when you have paid the kings ransom price of 1 it is quite gratifying to shout about it. 74cm long, feels great in the hand. I can only explain it as being made full of manly purposefulness like an outsized industrial spanner Fibers, resin, wood and shell. Has been well used as can be see where the spear end has chipped resin from the fulcrum? part. I am going to keep this one. Do you think I would be a vandal adding some more resin? Not too much just enougth to secure this part but still keeping it looking used?
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Old 23rd November 2008, 03:01 PM   #2
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CONGRADULATIONS THATS A VERY NICE ONE AND YOU MUST HAVE USED THE OLD TIME MACHINE TO GO BACK 100 YEARS TO GET IT AT THAT PRICE.
THE DAMAGE APEARS TO BE RECENT SO REPARING IT WOULD BE DESIRABLE AS IT PROBABLY OCCURED IN ITS RECENT HANDELING NOT IN ACTUAL USE. IF YOU HAVE SPINIFEX RESIN AVAILABLE YOU COULD DO A VERY GOOD REPAIR. IF NOT THE TWO PART RESIN THAT COMES IN A LARGE DOUBLE SYRENGE COULD SERVE AS WELL. YOU WOULD JUST HAVE TO FIND SOMETHING TO ADD TO ACHEIVE THE PROPER COLOR OR CLOSE TO IT. EXPERIMENT ON A PIECE OF BOARD OR SOMETHING BEFORE APPLYING TO YOUR SPEAR THROWER UNTIL YOU SEE HOW IT LOOKS DRY AND IS FINISHED SATISFACTORLY. YOU WILL HAVE TO FROST THE SURFACE OF ANY NEW RESIN TO MAKE IT BLEND IN, FOR THAT TRY SANDPAPER OR IF YOU HAVE A SMALL SANDBLASTER THAT MIGHT WORK BUT PROTECT ANY AREAS WITH PATINA YOU DON'T WANT TO BLAST. A COATING OF SOME SORT CAN ALSO BE USED TO MAKE IT BLEND IN BETTER.
I SAW ONE JUST LIKE YOURS IN 1970 AT A GUN SHOW IT WAS DESCRIBED AS A VERY RARE POLYNESIAN UNDERWATER FIGHTING KNIFE. THE TOTALLY CRAZY DESCRIPTION MADE YOU LAUGH UNTILL YOU SAW THE EVEN CRAZYIER PRICE. I TOLD THE SELLER WHAT IT REALLY WAS BUT , IT WAS HIS STORY AND HE STUCK TO IT.
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Old 23rd November 2008, 04:22 PM   #3
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Thanks Barry. It is an old piece. A lot of time was spent making it. I have some pine resin comming and we show the results. I have checked that there are Australian gum/resin producing pines and other plants.

The hard wood this is made from could make a handy sword club if you needed.
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Old 23rd November 2008, 04:22 PM   #4
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similar to an atlatl? how does the dart fit on the pivot?
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Old 23rd November 2008, 04:27 PM   #5
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The spear end would most likely have a small notch and rests against the peg, I will try to illustrate this.

Something like this. Only I am new to this and try to launch an S.African staff. I do not know if the spear would rest on the shell part but it works for me.
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Old 23rd November 2008, 05:33 PM   #6
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Tim, This Spear Thrower is from Northern Queensland. Rod
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Old 24th November 2008, 07:31 AM   #7
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Torres Straits islanders 1891 from the Smithsonian Institute. In the thread about a stone club there is information on Cape York being a great centre of import and export. A big centre for the export of weapons. This is the same form as mine.
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Old 24th November 2008, 09:26 AM   #8
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interesting weapon, atlatl have stone weights that can be moved to adjust the throw to the dart (spear), and sometimes finger loops, the spear bends as force is applied to the spear end, depending on the length to diameter ratio of the spear and there is a point where the counterbalance weight tunes out some of the vibration, increasing distance and accuracy. a modern atlatl threw a spear 'dart' almost 800 yards, so they are not something to be trifled with. atlatl usually have a 'hook' pivot that engages a cone shaped depression in the end of the 5-7 ft. long dart. no./central/so. american style darts are normally fletched.

i'd imaging a forked 'knock' on the end similar to a big arrow would work for yours, the atlatl sites show very similar throwers to yours.

here's a video showing how they are used.

http://www.arthurhaines.com/primiti...monstration.wmv

more links for anyone who might want to practice this most ancient art. a very easy to make weapons system....

http://www.thunderbirdatlatl.com/?page_id=78
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Old 24th November 2008, 05:21 PM   #9
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Yes a deadly weapon but just a few sticks really. I have this picture from the British Museum Publications "The Torres Strait Collection of A.C.Haddon" 1984. I did actually work in the then Museum of Mankind at this time. This is very similar to the last picture I post. There seems to be a degree of varriation perhaps that also occurs with stone clubs.
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Old 24th November 2008, 08:28 PM   #10
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Hi Kronckew,

Thanks for that neat video of the atlatl. I keep promising myself I'll get one, someday.

I'm no specialist on the spearthrowers, but I think there's a mechanical difference between the North American spear throwers and the Australian ones. The old Midwest spear throwers were, as you say, optimized as a "two spring" system, where the spear thrower bent, the dart bent, and then they both sprung back in synchrony to store and release the energy, and make the dart really fly. They optimized the system by repositioning the stone weight up and down the shaft of the spearthrower, to change how fast it rebounded to mesh with the rebound speed of the dart.

The Australian spearthrowers--woomeras--are, so far as I know, rigid. I've seen a demonstration of the Queensland variety (similar to the one here), and the spear definitely bends. The desert woomeras are spoon-shaped and rigid, and I'm not sure if their spears bend or not. The one video I saw (from around Uluru) showed an aboriginal using his broad spearthrower sidearm to good effect, so that spoon shape might have some stabilizing effect that I don't understand (perhaps the edge of the spoon holds the spear level while the user throws sidearm). In any case, any spring action was confined to the spear, and the woomera is primarily a lever arm.

One thing I'm not sure about is whether the North American spearthrower is technically an atlatl, which to be picky, is the Aztec spearthrower used to good effect on Cortez. Presumably it is, but the few illustrations I've seen of the Aztec atlatl don't have the banner weight, so for all I know, the Aztec atlatl was built more like a woomera. Yes, I KNOW that atlatl is now an anthropological term. I'm just being picky

Thanks for showing this great item, Tim. No arguments that this one is from the Torres Straits (unlike that stone club )

Best,

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Old 25th November 2008, 01:01 PM   #11
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Default N. American Atlatls.

The auther suggests that apart from small areas the use of atlatls had fallen out of favour before the introduction of the gun. Interesting what is said about weights?
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Old 25th November 2008, 02:55 PM   #12
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Hi Tim,

So far as I know, bow and arrow started replacing the atlatl in the Americas starting around 2000 BC. According to Robert McGhee (Ancient People of the Arctic), the paleo-Eskimos brought their bows with them out of Asia between 3000 BC and 2000 BC, and as far as I know, the first Indian arrowheads occur in northern Labrador around 2000 BC, and look like crude copies of those of the paleo-eskimo. So his hypothesis is that the Indians learned how to make bows from the Eskimo, and the technology diffused south from there.

As for why bows replaced atlatls, I'd guess that it's because the projectiles are smaller, easier to make, and fly at least three times as far. I've been checking flight records, and the current atlatl record is around 848 feet, while flight bows, even without the gizmos, fly over 900 yards (with a crossbow shooting over 2000 yards, and the handbow record at something like 1337 yards). Also, the bow is probably easier to stalk with, since all you have to do is pull and release.

Still, the atlatl stayed around for a while, such as with the Aztecs. As for why the Australian aboriginals didn't switch (unlike their New Guinea and Torres Island cousins, who mostly did switch), all I can guess is that either a) Australia doesn't have great archery materials in The Bush (dubious), or b) making and carrying bows and arrows was too much fuss, considering that most of aboriginal toolkit is multi-use, and bow and arrows are single use. Still, the Utes and other desert nomadic people (such as the San in south Africa) made and used bows, even when all they had for wood was willow. So it's just one of those puzzles.

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Old 26th November 2008, 05:16 AM   #13
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The Atlatl was used for thousands of years. It's arguably one of the most important innovations ever.

Most Australian throwers are used with really long heavy darts, like 10 or so feet. Most also employ a hammer grip, and the dart doesnt sit on top, but rather to the side. The wide body and airplane wing or birdwing cross section aids in tracking during the throw. The end of yours is probably incorrect-- the angle is wrong to nock darts, from my view.

Flexible N. American throwers don't really increase dart speed, even if calibrated to the weight and length of the darts. Most flexible atlatls fail to transfer their potential energy into the dart, transferring less than a stiff thrower. They do feel different. Kinda nice.

Bannerstones and weights act to stabilize the throw (partially by lowering the felt center of gravity of the fulcrum of the dart and nock, if that makes sense), and so may be seen to help increase consistency, but they do not appear to increase dart speed or result in an increase in energy delivered to a target.

Anyone who is interested, I encourage you to make a thrower and some darts. Its very easy when you learn the concepts, and the equipment is free and easy to make.


I've made dozens of throwers, and throw at least a few times a week. My atlatl goals include taking a rabbit, and hunting a shark from my kayak.

I will mention, its a helluva lot easier to make meat with a bow than with an atlatl.

But if you're going for Pleistocene megafauna, and you have a bunch of guys and a big herd of mammoths or something, go with the atlatl.

cool stuff


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Old 26th November 2008, 09:23 AM   #14
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i think that last statement is the key to why the bow replaced the atlatl. the wildlife in the americas was quite a bit larger when man first appeared, and required a larger spear to kill them. once they were killed off, and nothing bigger than a bison was around, the bow was more convenient, and required less wood for it's little 'spears', for the game remaining (and for anti-personnel duties). the 3-5 oz. atlatl dart at 848 ft delivers quite a bit more punch than a puny lightweight 180 grain turkish flight arrow 'spear' at 900 yds.

Turkish flight arrows

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Old 27th November 2008, 03:45 PM   #15
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Repaired and ready for use just like a Blackfella. With respect a kill tally of two would suggest a person had not been making and using a woomera since a very young boy .
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Old 29th November 2008, 01:58 AM   #16
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Hi Tim,

Dumb question, but could there be a mistaken repair on your woomera?

Specifically, the b/w picture you posted in #9 shows a hook at a more acute angle and a shell base that's oriented at an opposite angle to your specimen. What I would suggest is that, perhaps, the hook on your specimen was a bit loose, sliding up and down through the socket, and somebody positioned it on the wrong side and glued it in place.

Any evidence of a repair, or does the angle of the peg vary in samples?

So far as the megafauna extinction driving out the atlatl, I'd have to say that wouldn't work.

The big reason is that, in America, the megafauna went extinct around 10-12,000 years ago (except for the mammoths that held out to 1650 BC in the Arctic). However, the bow and arrow were apparently introduced to the New World around 4000 years ago by the paleo-eskimos. The atlatl was still used by the Aztec into historic times.

In Australia and New Guinea, the megafauna went extinct (apparently) around 40-50,000 years ago, but the people still use woomeras. And in Papua New Guinea, some tribes use bows, some tribes use spearthrowers--in place of bows? In addition? So we don't see a global replacement of one for the other.

Bottom line: I don't think there's a correlation between changing diets and changing gathering technology. I'd suggest that things like range and ease of manufacture probably matter more. Or, perhaps, losing a battle to a troop of archers might have inspired people to change over...

So far as Australian woomeras go, if Mr. McCormack is correct, then the spears thrown by woomeras are stiff enough to be used as handheld spears, and can be used in hand, as walking sticks, etc. I'm not sure the spears are that rigid, and we'll have to post some specimens. What I am more sure of is that atlatl darts are too small and thin for such uses, so I can see why they'd be replaced by bow and arrow--in some places. Remember that some people retained the atlatl technology for roughly 3000 years after the replacement became available, and the Maya apparently never adopted bows until Europeans introduced them in historic times.

Anyway, the switch from spearthrower to bow is a pretty complicated affair.

Now we've got a debate!

Best,

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Old 29th November 2008, 02:16 AM   #17
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The only folks who really used stiff atlatl darts were/are the Inuit. At least that we know of.

This is an amazing link. Especially the first 50 pics. Incredible collection of ethnographic pics relating to semi-modern atlatl use by the Inuit, Mexicans, South American groups, Australians, New Guineans, etc etc.

http://users.skynet.be/fa057790/pictures/index.htm

For discussion, check out the World Atlatl Association section over on http://paleoplanet69529.yuku.com/
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Old 29th November 2008, 03:31 AM   #18
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Neat links. I see what you mean about spears flexing for the Aboriginal spears (Tafel 31.2)

Thanks,

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Old 29th November 2008, 09:36 AM   #19
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Great pictures. I found this piece of dowel rod and tried the woomera with it. Thrown by hand I made a distance of 16 paces. When I tried the woormera I was lucky to get 4 paces that is untill I cut a notch in the dowl as in the picture. Then I threw up to 50 paces The only problem, by now the pine resin was braking up being far too brittle only after about 4 throws. I have now ordered some Dammar resin. I would expect ongoing repairs but the orignal resin must have lasted more than 4 throws. Any answers on the resin?
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Old 29th November 2008, 03:57 PM   #20
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Very cool, glad to see that woomera getting use!

For the resin, cut the pitch with a little beeswax. Will make it less brittle.

Now, attach another length of dowel to the one you have, and you'll probly have enough flex to get going. For instant gratification purposes, duct tape works well for fletching material.

Remember, the flexibility of the dart causes the front end (the point) to resist moving when you start your throw. This resistance loads energy in the dart, flexing a spring. As you follow through with the stroke, the energy is released and the dart goes a flyin. The bigger the fletching, the more stable but slower the flight. If you balance your dart such that its point of balance is about 1/3 back from the point, you won't need fletching, the dart will stabilize itself. For distance fun throwing, try almost no fletching on a 7 foot 7 oz. dart that is moderately flexy. For hunting distances (less than 25 yards, realistically....unless you are throwing into a herd, which is not so feasible these days) a very heavy dart with big fletching is useful. The atlatl dart never achieves anywhere close to the speed of an arrow- instead you must rely on increased mass to result in power.

Have fun!

Oh! and those woomeras are so long, they really need a long dart to work well. About three times the length of the woomera, or more. But you will find that out
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Old 30th November 2008, 03:32 AM   #21
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FROM THE PICTURES IT LOOKED LIKE SINU (SPELLING?) ANIMAL TENDONS, WERE USED FOR THE STRONG PART HOLDING THE PEG AND THE RESIN JUST HELD THE TENDONS IN PLACE. PERHAPS YOU NEED TO APPLY MORE SINU AND THEN RESIN AS THE SINU DID APPEAR DAMMAGED IN THE EARLY PHOTOS. I SUSPECT THE ENDS OF THE STRIPS GOING AROUND THE PEG WERE WRAPPED AROUND THE SHAFT AND LET DRY TO HOLD TIGHT AND THEN THE RESIN WAS APPLIED TO WATERPROOF, PROTECT AND HOLD THE SINU. GOOD LUCK
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Old 30th November 2008, 02:26 PM   #22
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Fixed up a treat with bees wax in the pine resin, all available in North Queensland. Hope I find a use for the Dammar resin.
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