A brand new research led by Archaeologist Michelle Bebber, Ph.D., an assistant professor in Kent State College’s Division of Anthropology, has demonstrated that the atlatl (i.e. spear thrower) capabilities as an “equalizer,” a discovering which helps girls’s potential energetic function as prehistoric hunters.


Bebber co-authored an article “Atlatl use equalizes feminine and male projectile weapon velocity” which was revealed within the journal Nature: Scientific Studies. Her co-authors embody Metin I. Eren and Dexter Zirkle (a current Ph.D. graduate) additionally within the Division of Anthropology at Kent State, Briggs Buchanan of College of Tulsa, and Robert Walker of the College of Missouri.

The atlatl is a handheld, rod-shaped system that employs leverage to launch a dart, and represents a serious human technological innovation utilized in searching and warfare because the Stone Age. The primary javelins are not less than a whole lot of 1000’s of years previous; the primary atlatls are seemingly not less than tens of 1000’s of years previous.

“One speculation for forager atlatl adoption over its presumed predecessor, the thrown javelin, is {that a} various array of individuals may obtain equal efficiency outcomes, thereby facilitating inclusive participation of extra individuals in searching actions,” Bebber mentioned.


Bebber’s research examined this speculation by way of a scientific evaluation of two,160 weapon launch occasions by 108 individuals, all novices, (a lot of which had been Kent State college students) who used each javelins and atlatls. The outcomes are according to the “atlatl equalizer speculation,” displaying that the atlatl not solely will increase the speed of projectile weapons relative to thrown javelins, however that the atlatl equalizes the speed of female- and male-launched projectiles.

“This outcome signifies {that a} javelin to atlatl transition would have promoted a unification, moderately than division, of labor,” Bebber mentioned. “Our outcomes counsel that feminine and male interments with atlatl weaponry needs to be interpreted equally, and in some archaeological contexts females may have been the atlatl’s inventor.”

“Many individuals are likely to view girls previously as passive and that solely males had been hunters, however more and more that doesn’t appear to be the case,” Bebber mentioned. “Certainly, and maybe most significantly, there appears to be a rising consilience amongst totally different fields — archaeology, ethnography, and now trendy experiments — that girls had been seemingly energetic and profitable hunters of sport, huge and small.”

Since 2019, each semester Bebber takes her class outdoors to make use of the atlatl. She seen that females picked it up very simply and will launch darts so far as the males with little effort.

“Typically males turned annoyed as a result of they had been attempting too arduous and making an attempt to make use of their energy to launch the darts,” Bebber mentioned. “Nonetheless, because the atlatl capabilities as a easy lever, it reduces the benefit of male’s usually larger muscle energy.”

“On condition that females seem to learn essentially the most from atlatl use, it’s definitely throughout the realm of risk that in some contexts females invented the atlatl,” Bebber mentioned. “Likewise, in some primate species, females invent instrument applied sciences for searching as documented amongst the Fongoli chimpanzees.”

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