Atlatl Weights

Boat Stones

The boatstone atlatl weight is a fairly common artifact found in Oklahoma, especially in the eastern woodland sections of the state.

It is more rare in the central and western areas although occasional specimens are found widely distributed throughout the state, including the Oklahoma Panhandle.

The term "boatstone" which is commonly used to identify this artifact comes from the general boat shape of the stone. The boatstone served as a weight and charm for an atlatl or throwing stick. Similar stones have been found still attached to wooden atlatls in the Southwestern Basket Maker sites. The boatstone was tied or lashed to the throwing stick between the handle and the hook end which held the base of the spear or dart at the time of launching the weapon. The boatstone presumably served as a weight to increase the efficiency of the throwing stick although this could have been accomplished merely by increasing the size of the atlatl or using a heavier type of wood. The amount of labor expended on the boatstone and the fact that many of them have been carefully hollowed out to form a cavity which would be hidden by the atlatl shaft suggest that other functions were involved; perhaps some weights served as a charm to improve hunting success.

Boatstones vary considerably in their form, size, and material. Some Oklahoma examples are illustrated in Figure 22. They are generally boat-shaped with one flat side which was placed against the throwing stick. The form varies from rather long cigar-shaped types to more oval, elliptical, rectangular, or circular types. Sometimes the boatstone is deeply hollowed out with rather thin walls, and other times it is flat based with no

 

 

attempt to hollow the interior at all.

The more slender forms are likely to be flat rather than hollow, perhaps because of the difficulty in hollowing out the stone. A common feature on Oklahoma specimens is the presence of a string groove cut along the "keel" of the boatstone. This string groove is often present on boats tones having a narrow or V-shaped cross section and it held the string or cord which tied the weight onto the atlatl shaft. Some boatstones have perforations, usually two, for attachment, but the perforated boatstone is very rare in Oklahoma, if it occurs at all. Occasional specimens are sometimes incised with a simple design on the outside surface.

There is also much variation in size with the range being from small examples 50 mm or less in length to large specimens measuring 130 mm or more in length. Most specimens, however, will have a length between 70 and 100 mm.

All types of materials were used for making boatstones. They were most often made from metamorphic or igneous rocks although hematite, quartz crystal, and other stones were sometimes used. They were manufactured by a pecking, grinding, and polishing process; the greatest difficulty was encountered in hollowing out the central section.

The boatstone is an old artifact which was popular during the Archaic period. It apparently continued in use with the atlatl after the appearance of the bow and arrow, but it finally became more and more rare. In Oklahoma, it is most commonly associated with the Late Archaic and Fourche Maline phase of Caddoan times.

Table of Contents