Alutiiq, Kodiak Island, Western Alaska. Spear-throwers and their accompanying spears, or darts, were used both for hunting and in warfare and their hand grips often very elaborately carved. PM 10-47-10/76822
Western Australia. Aboriginal Australians fashioned the largest and heaviest spear-throwers in the world, often using them as clubs when they ran out of spears. Carved and painted designs that reflect regional differences in style. PM 23-46-70/D1715.3
Nazca, Peru, prehistoric, with carved feline figure. For the ancient peoples of the Andes, including the Inca, the spear thrower was used alongside clubs and slings as the major weapons of war. PM 38-51-30/1692
Tlingit, collected before 1819. The peoples of the Northwest Coast of the Americas made the most intricately carved spear-throwers in the world. Both sides were decorated, with little provision for the hand grip. PM 95-20-10/48390

For more than 300,000 years, people have used spears for hunting and warfare.  In some parts of the world as early as 25,000 to 30,000 years ago, both the power and the accuracy of a thrown spear were revolutionized by the invention of the spear-thrower.

The spear-thrower consists of a short, rod or slat with a handle on one end.  On the other end, a small spur of wood, ivory or stone slots into the end of a spear. The spear is held in place by fingers or a rest and thrown with a running motion. This innovation allows its user to hurl spears further and with greater force and accuracy. 

Some makers improved the performance of their spear-throwers by adding weights and grips. Many have elaborate finger grips and beautifully carved weights and spear rests, often with animal-inspired designs.

Nineteen items on display.