Why Wasn’t the Atlatl Used In Warfare?

Sep 2017
690
United States
#1
The atlatl, as far as I understand it, was a weapon used by early humans to hunt, allowing the user to throw a spear much further (harder too maybe?).

Except maybe for some Native Americans (Aztecs?), I don’t think the atlatl was used in warfare. But how come? Javelins were incredibly common in ancient warfare, and I thought the atlatl was a pretty universal weapon design, like the bow.
 
Aug 2016
872
USA
#2
I've asked this before too. IIRC people in Europe just didn't know it existed until at least the 1400s when America was discovered. I'm not sure about Asia or Africa.

You also need two hands to throw an atlatl, so it could only be used by dedicated skirmishers or other troops that didn't need to have a hand holding a shield, not Roman legionaries or other frontline troops that used large shields to protect against missile fire. I suspect it would be very awkward to use from horseback.

I don't think atlatls or evidence of them have been recovered by archeologists in all area of the world. So it likely wasn't known world-wide.

However, the atlatl was used by Australian aborigines and other people besides native Americans in warfare. I believe wherever the atlatl appeared, there is evidence it was used in warfare. The Aztecs did use them, and it was seen as a more "noble" weapon than the bow. There are archeological remains of atlatls across North and South America and they were used by many tribes.

Atlatls will provide more force and distance to a throw than you could manage with just your hand and a javelin. For some reason, atlatl projectiles are called darts. A lot of people dont know that In medieval times Europeans would fight with large "war darts" that were basically javelins with fletching and steel heads. I assume the term came from that, but I'm not sure.

EDIT:
Atlatls have been found in finds from Stone-Age Europe, but apparently the technology was lost due to being superseded by bows by the classical era. I think Javelin use in warfare appears to have been developed by the Thracians to counter Greek hoplites, but someone correct me if I'm wrong. I assume amentums developed from that.
 
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Aug 2016
872
USA
#4
Amentums are more accurate, and easier to construct than atlatls. However, they lack the range, and (I think) the force of the atlatl. They are still longer ranged than javelins by themselves. I feel like I would prefer the amentum for hunting, and the atlatl for shooting into large masses of men during a battle.

I should mention, though atlatls have longer range than the amentums, it is quite difficult to throw with accuracy at that range.
 
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Likes: Edratman
Jul 2016
8,668
USA
#7
Because bows are better, handier, more accurate, more common, easier to learn. And regular javelins without fletching are more versatile, stronger, work well with shields in off hand.

And because most early militaries were made up of people who probably had no clue what an atlatl was, as their use seems to have ended before civilizations sprung up and organized armies.
 
Likes: Todd Feinman
Aug 2016
872
USA
#8
Because bows are better, handier, more accurate, more common, easier to learn. And regular javelins without fletching are more versatile, stronger, work well with shields in off hand.

And because most early militaries were made up of people who probably had no clue what an atlatl was, as their use seems to have ended before civilizations sprung up and organized armies.
Why do you feel bows are easier to learn?
 

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