Very Rare Mississippian Atlatl ( Spear Thrower ) from Puluski County Kentucky

Item AF4


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This item is a very rare spear thrower ( atlatl ) from the Mississippian culture. It was found by Mr. Will Gibson in a dry bluff cave shelter on his farm in 1918. The atlatl was found 13 feet into the cave entrance and it was found with a broken bannerstone and two lithic points. The farm was located near Fishing Creek in Puluski County. Dale Cross, who is a Native American and a lithic artifact consultant to the Smithsonian acquired this atlatl through trade in 1994. Dale showed the atlatl to Johnny Faulkner, an Archaeological Technician in the U.S. Forest Service and the wood was identified as Chestnut. The Director of PaleoIndian Studies for the Smithsonian, Dennis Stanford, said that this atlatl is only one of three of this type that has ever been found. Dennis wanted Dale to donate the atlatl to the Smithsonian for free and Dennis planned to drill a hole into the atlatl to analyze the wood, so Dale decided to sell this atlatl to a private collector who would not do destructive testing on it That is where I entered the story. I purchased this atlatl in 1999 from Dale after agreeing to not do any destructive testing on the atlatl. I have kept it in a climate controlled environment since 1999, taking it out only to show it to members of the World Atlatl Association who have an interest in atlatl history and Native American culture.

The Mississippian Culture spanned the period A.D. 850 to A.D. 1700. The age of this atlatl is estimated to be approximately 1,000 years old. The bow and arrow replaced the atlatl about 1,000 years ago, so atlatls made after the introduction of the bow would be very uncommon.

Kentucky has a wet climate compared to the desert Southwest where Paleoindian artifacts are found to be in really good condition. This atlatl has deteriorated surfaces and there is a visible worm hole on one side of the handle (see photo below). Much of the dart spur is missing, but the base of the spur is still visible. The general shape and many of the surface features are still intact. The atlatl can be handled if you are gentle with it. The broken bannerstone (1/2 missing) and the two lithic points are included.

Length = 37 cm ; Weight = 32 gm


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