Spear Thrower

Date: mid-19th–early 20th century

Geography: Australia, Northern Territory, Kalgoorlie (?)

Culture: Kalgoorlie (?)

Medium: Wood, stone, spinifex resin, sinew

Dimensions: H. 25 1/4 x W. 5 1/2 x D. 1 in. (64.1 x 14 x 2.5 cm)

Classification: Wood-Implements

Credit Line: The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John J. Klejman, 1965

Accession Number: 1978.412.837


Aboriginal peoples across Australia formerly used spear throwers in both hunting and warfare. When in use, the implement was held by the handle at the base and the small hooklike projection at the top fitted into the hollow butt end of a long, lightweight spear. The implement effectively increased the length of the user's arm, providing a mechanical advantage that enhanced both the velocity and the distance that the spear could be thrown. Although spear throwers enabled a hunter or warrior to hit an animal or adversary at a range of up to eighty yards, in most cases the users preferred to approach the target as closely as possible to ensure the greatest possible force and accuracy in the throw.

This spear thrower reportedly originated in the Kalgoorlie Region of Western Australia. The designs may represent a variant of the zigzag motifs that appear widely on implements from the region, here reduced to a series of vertical lines with only a single, subtly angled bend in the middle, which combine to create a refined design with a pleasing visual rhythm.