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قراءة كتاب Throwing-sticks in the National Museum Third Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1883-'84, Government Printing Office, Washington, 1890, pages 279-289

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Throwing-sticks in the National Museum
Third Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1883-'84, Government Printing Office, Washington, 1890, pages 279-289

Throwing-sticks in the National Museum Third Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1883-'84, Government Printing Office, Washington, 1890, pages 279-289

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 1

Transcriber's Note:

A number of obvious typographical errors have been corrected in this text.
For a complete list, please see the bottom of this document.





Curator of the Department of Ethnology

From the Report of the Smithsonian Institution, 1883-'84,
Part II, pages 279-289, and plates I-XVII



By Otis T. Mason.

Col. Lane Fox tells us there are three areas of the throwing-stick: Australia, where it is simply an elongated spindle with a hook at the end; the country of the Conibos and the Purus, on the Upper Amazon, where the implement resembles that of the Australians, and the hyperborean regions of North America.

It is of this last group that we shall now speak, since the National Museum possesses only two specimens from the first-named area and none whatever from the second.

The researches and collections of Bessels, Turner, Boas, Hall, Mintzner, Kennicott, Ray, Murdoch, Nelson, Herendeen, and Dall, to all of whom I acknowledge my obligations, enable me to compare widely separated regions of the hyperborean area, and to distinguish these regions by the details in the structure of the throwing-stick.

The method of holding the throwing-stick is indicated in Fig. 1 by a drawing of H.W. Elliott. The Eskimo is just in the act of launching the light seal harpoon. The barbed point will fasten itself into the animal, detach itself from the ivory foreshaft, and unwind the rawhide or sinew line, which is securely tied to both ends of the light wooden shaft by a martingale device. The heavy ivory foreshaft will cause the shaft to assume an upright position in the water, and the whole will act as a drag to impede the progress of the game. The same idea of impeding progress and of retrieving is carried out by a multitude of devices not necessary to mention here.

The Eskimo spend much time in their skin kyaks, from which it would be difficult to launch an arrow from a bow, or a harpoon from the unsteady, cold, and greasy hand. This device of the throwing-stick, therefore, is the substitute for the bow or the sling, to be used in the kyak, by a people who cannot procure the proper materials for a heavier lance-shaft, or at least whose environment is prejudicial to the use of such a weapon. Just as soon as we pass Mount St. Elias going southward, the throwing-stick, plus the spear or dart of the Eskimo and the Aleut, gives place to the harpoon with a long, heavy, cedar shaft, weighing 15 or 20 pounds, whose momentum from both hands of the Indian, without the throw-stick, exceeds that of the Eskimo and Aleut darts and harpoons, with the additional velocity imparted by the throwing-stick. It must not be forgotten, also, that the kyak is a very frail, unsteady thing, and therefore not much of the momentum of the body can be utilized, as it is by the Northwest Indians in making a lunge with a heavy shaft. The throwing-stick is also said by some arctic voyagers to be useful in giving directness of aim. Perhaps no other savage device comes so near in this respect to a gun barrel or the groove of a bow-gun. Its greatest advantages, however, are the firm grip which it gives in handling a harpoon or dart, and the longer time which it permits the hunter to apply the force of his arm to the propulsion of his weapon. Having practiced with a throwing-stick somewhat, I have imagined also that there was a certain amount of leverage acquired by the particular method of holding the stick and straightening the arm, as in a toggle joint. That implement, which seems so simple, and which is usually mentioned and dismissed in a word, possesses several marks or organs, which help to distinguish the locality in which each form occurs, as well as to define the associations of the implement as regards the weapon thrown from it and the game pursued. These marks are:

1. Shape, or general outline in face and side view, and size.

2. Handle, the part grasped in the hand.

3. Thumb-groove or thumb-lock, provision for the firm and comfortable insertion of the phalanx and ball of the thumb.

4. Finger-grooves, provision for each finger according to its use in the manipulation of the implement.

5. Finger-pegs, little plugs of wood or ivory to give more certain grip for the fingers and to prevent their slipping. The devices for the fingers are the more necessary where the hands are cold and everything is covered with grease.

6. Finger-tip cavities, excavations on the front face of the implement, into which the tips of the three last fingers descend to assist in grasping and to afford a rest on the back of these fingers for the weapon shaft.

7. Index-finger cavity or hole, provision for the insertion of the index finger, which plays a very important part in the use of the throwing-stick.

8. Spear shaft groove, in which the shaft of the weapon lies, as an arrow or bolt in the groove of a bow-gun.

9. Hook or spur, provision for seizing the butt end of the weapon while it is being launched. These may be ridges left in the wood by excavation, or pieces of wood, bone, ivory, &c., inserted. The size and shape of this part, and the manner of insertion, are also worthy of notice.

10. Edges: this feature is allied to the form and not to the function of the implement.

11. Faces: upper, on which the weapon rests; lower, into which the index finger is inserted.

The figures illustrating this article are drawn to a scale indicated by inch marks in the margin, every dot on the line standing for an inch.

By the presence or absence, by the number or the shape of some of these marks or structural characteristics, the type and locality can be easily detected. The Eskimo have everywhere bows and arrows for land hunting, the former made of several pieces of bone lashed together, or of a piece of driftwood lashed and re-enforced with sinew. The arrows are of endless variety.

It should also be noticed that the kind of game and the season of the year, the shape and size of the spear accompanying the stick, and the bare or gloved hand, are all indicated by language expressed in various parts of this wonderful throwing-stick.


The Greenland throwing-stick is a long, flat trapezoid, slightly ridged along the back (Fig. 2). It has no distinct handle at the wide end, although it will be readily seen that the expanding of this part secures a firm grip. A chamfered groove on one side for the thumb, and a smaller groove on the other side for the index finger, insure the implement against slipping from the hunter's grasp. Marks 5, 6, 7 of the series on page 280 are wanting in the Greenland type. The shaft-groove, in which lies the shaft of the great harpoon, is wide, deep, and rounded at the bottom. There is no hook, as in all the other types, to fit the end of the harpoon shaft, but in its stead are two holes, one in the front end of the shaft-groove, between the thumb-groove and the finger-groove, with an ivory eyelet or grommet for a lining, the other at the distal end of the