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Atlatl Weights & Bannerstones

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  • Atlatl Weights & Bannerstones

    Atl-atls, Weights & Bannerstones

    Over 14,000 years ago as Paleo man traveled the continent now known as North America, he hunted with long thrusting spears tipped with flaked points. Hunting with such weapons was often dangerous as the hunters would need to approach very close to their prey in order to strike it with enough impact for their spears to pierce the animals tough hide, and with enough force to penetrate deep enough to strike a vital organ.

    During the middle to late Paleo period, ancient man developed a new weapon called the atl-atl. Held in one hand, this spear thrower would launch a spear approximately 6 feet in length at its intended target. The use of this tool allowed the spear to travel faster, and farther than hand thrown spears, while it allowed the hunters to remain at a safer distance from their prey when launching their spears. At the end of this spear was a smaller point usually made of flint, called a dart point.

    The atl-atl is simple in design, being a smoothed stick around 16” to 24” in length with a handle at one end, and a hook made from antler at the other end. One end of the spear was placed against the hook, and when released or flung, the thrower would launch the spear at distances and speeds far exceeding that which could be achieved without the use of the thrower. During the Archaic period, perforated bannerstones begin to appear in the archaeological record, yet for some unknown reason, their use did not continue into later time periods.

    While the atl-atl is an effective working weapon system with just the main shaft, hook and spear, many atl-atls made in ancient times utilized a counter-balance weight attached at the center of the shaft. I have used examples with weights, and without, and I find the weighted system does in fact work better than the un-weighted. Weights came in various shapes and sizes and were made from various locally found materials. The method of attachment to the main shaft is the predominate difference between the various types of weights. While there are various styles that were tied directly to the main shaft, there were also those utilizing a drilled hole (perforation) in the center of the weight called bannerstones which are main subject of this book.

    Even with all of the study that has been completed over the last one hundred years, the whole story behind some artifact types remains illusive, and bannerstones are one such group of artifact. Some artifacts, when professionally excavated, are found in such a way that their story is literally laid out around them, plain to see. A gorget or pendant found sitting on the chest of a skeletal remain is pretty good evidence that it was worn as an ornament around the neck. Conch shell ornaments found on either side of a skull is a good indication they were worn as ear decoration. A flint point found hafted into a fore-shaft is solid evidence it was used in conjunction with an atl-atl. Excavating and documenting such insitu finds is what has provided the collector with much of the knowledge we have about many of the artifacts we collect. There are certain types of artifacts however, that even though found insitu, only paint a partial picture of their whole story in ancient times. With the bannerstone group, it has been well documented that they have been found in association with other atlatl components, namely the atl-atl hook that was attached to the end of the spear thrower, and the atl-atl handle that was attached to the opposite end. When looking at the size of the drilled hole that perforates the middle of a bannerstone, it is not hard to draw the conclusion that the bannerstone was hafted to the center of the atlatl shaft between the hook and handle.


    Unattributed article duplicated from the “Resources” section of arrowheads.com and reproduced with permission.
    [Compiled by painshill]
    Look to the ground for it holds the past!

  • #2
    Tie-on bannerstone.



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    • #3





      Both found in York County S.C. about 15 miles apart. One near Kings Mountain area and one near the town of Sharon.
      Personal finds and photos by Shartis
      Searching the fields of Northwest Indiana and Southwestern Michigan

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      • #4
        pick-type semi-lunar bannerstone. J. Coe, (1964) found this type of bannerstone associated with Stanly cultural materials. Here's one from central N.C.

        Info and photo by Truett
        Searching the fields of Northwest Indiana and Southwestern Michigan

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        • #5



          Personal find (S.C.) and photos by Shartis
          Searching the fields of Northwest Indiana and Southwestern Michigan

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          • #6
            Bannerstones from the Terry McGuire and Ed Harvey Collections




            (Terry McGuire photo)
            Hardstone banners from upper left: horned with shaft flute, 2.8", Illinois. green quartz horned 2.75" Southern Illinois. granite horned 3.25", Mercer Co., OH. Wisconsin winged 4", St. Clair Co., IL. ferruginous quartz hourglass 2.4", Holmes Co., OH. conglomerate granite shuttle 3.5"



            Slate banners from the upper left: black glacial slate double-notched butterfly 7", Michigan. Red claystone double-edged 4.2", Madison Co. TN. reel 4.75", Greene Co. IN; double-notched slate butterfly 5.5", Dubois Co. IN. knobbed crescent 7.75", Preble Co. OH; clipped wing 3.2" Ohio, one of 4 known to exist.


            Duplicated from the “Resources” section of arrowheads.com and reproduced with permission.
            I keep six honest serving-men (they taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who.

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            • #7
              Bannerstone Images


              Left: Quartz Hourglass Bannerstone, David Lutz Collection (John Pafford Photo)
              Right: Fluted Ball Bannerstone, Mark Clark Collection (John Pafford Photo)



              Chlorite Crescent Bannerstone, Jon Sorgenfrei Collection (Jon Pafford Photo)



              Effigy Bannerstone, Tommy Beutell Collection (Jon Pafford Photo)


              Duplicated from the “Resources” section of arrowheads.com and reproduced with permission.
              I keep six honest serving-men (they taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who.

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              • #8
                Two unfinished bannerstones from Rhode Island. The first is made of granite and still displays the column created by sand and reed drilling.





                Rhode Island

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                • #9
                  Bannerstones: An Ancient Native American Art Tradition

                  Bannerstones-AncientNativeAmericanArtCD.pdf

                  The attached pdf file is kindly provided by Terry McGuire, as an extract from "Bannerstones: An Ancient Native American Art Tradition" in CD-format. Ed Harvey, who taught in the Fine Arts department of a college in California began creating the CD with the idea of making it available as a teaching aid for courses in art and archaeology. Sadly Ed died of cancer in 2002 and didn't have chance to introduce it into his courses or offer it to other colleges and universities. Terry was the principal photographer on the project and completed and published the work after Ed’s death.

                  To order this CD (Hybrid CD-ROM for Mac/PC) please contact Terry McGuire:

                  Email: bucketncorkscrew AT aol DOT com (replacing the AT with @, and the DOT with a . )

                  Tel: (773) 283-9943

                  Address: 3926 North Keeler Avenue, Chicago, IL, 60641

                  Current price: $40.00 plus $4 shipping (confirmed correct as of May 2014)
                  I keep six honest serving-men (they taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who.

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