The atlatl was the first true weapon system developed by humans, originating in Europe over 30,000 years ago. It remained the principle form of projectile technology until the invention of the bow and arrow around 2,000 years ago.
Though in continuous use worldwide for 30 millennia, the atlatl was refined to its fullest potential in North America. The detachable foreshaft and atlatl weight are uniquely Native American refinements. The use of a detachable tip allowed the hunter to retrieve his 6-foot long spear and insert another foreshaft for faster follow-up, much like a modern hunter chambers a new round.
The stone weight caused the shaft to bend, storing energy which was transferred to the dart upon release. The flexible dart also compressed like a spring, storing energy to be used to push itself away from the atlatl, launching at velocities that could easily exceed 100 mph.