Archaeology Groups Host Atlatl Competition

Members of Mu Alpha Nu participate in the fair and atlatl competition at Blackwater Draw. The Chase photo: Jonathan Elkins

On Saturday Oct. 26, The New Mexico Historic Preservation Division and the Mu Alpha Nu Archaeology Club hosted the New Mexico Archaeology fair and Atlatl competition at Blackwater Draw. Both groups organized the event in order to celebrate 90 years of archaeological research at the Blackwater site, and to educate the public regarding the lives of the ancient people of New Mexico.

Mu Alpha Nu is a student organization dedicated to promoting an active interest in the field of anthropology. The Mu Alpha Nu President, Taylor McCoy, said that the purpose of the event was to “One- Raise awareness of archaeology, Two- To get people out to the site and to enjoy the open house, we’d like people to come out here more often, and Three-This is an opportunity for Mu Alpha Nu to raise money through our concession stand.” Members of Mu Alpha Nu were tasked with manning the concession stand during the event, selling much needed refreshments to those in attendance. Event organizers also held a raffle, with attendees standing to win prizes ranging from hand-made quilts to posters.

The Atlatl is an ancient spear throwing weapon used for hunting, and for warfare. The device greatly increased the force and impact of a spear, and drastically changed life for ancient peoples. “The use of atlatls greatly increased the accuracy of spears, and made hitting large targets more useful individually,” said Josh Iru, a member of Mu Alpha Nu. “These tools made hunting larger game more effective, though it would still have been difficult to hit small game on the ground.” he added. “The point of the competition is to educate people, and to show how hunting was practiced for many years.” Iru said.

Activities during this year’s event included flint knapping, corn grinding, Lithic and Ceramic displays, and Yucca Crafts. Every event served to add to the atmosphere of fun and learning. People of all ages came out to try their hand at using the atlatl, realizing only too soon how difficult the task truly is. Most people struggled to land their first few throws, but after practice and explanation, participants started to get the hang of the technique required to consistently hit their targets. Directly following the competition, the site director gave a guided tour of the Blackwater bone bed, where many ancient fossils have been unearthed over the last 90 years.

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