General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 19 Apr 2021/3 Alligator
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Aztec wooden atlatl spear-thrower

Aztec-Mixtec átlatl - spear-thrower, c. 1500, wood with traces of paint, approx. length 58 cms, National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City.

An átlatl functioned as an extension of the arm when throwing spears or darts and had an effective range of 60 metres. The weapon was not only employed in everyday contexts (hunting, for example) and military campaigns, but was also carried during ceremonies. This átlatl is fashioned from a long, thick piece of wood carved to resemble a serpent. A central groove ends in a hook near the head of the serpent [in the photo, the weapon is the wrong way up - you can just see the groove running along what should be the top of the snake’s body] in which the spear was placed. A grip was probably once tied through the holes near the serpent’s head. The carved design could refer to the Feathered Serpent, Quetzalcóatl, and might have been carried by Quetzalcóatl’s impersonator during ceremonies.

Adapted from the RA exhibition catalogue ‘Aztecs’, p. 478.

Photo by Ana Laura Landa/Mexicolore

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