• Egypt c. 1350 B.C. - Throwsticks Hunting - Tomb of Nebamun
  • Egypt c. 1370 B.C. - Throwstick Hunting - Tomb of Menna
  • NW Australia c. 1910 - A Chip Off The Old Throwstick
  • Fluted Central Desert Throwsticks - Courtesy - Gary Broadbent Collection
  • Armed Australian Stockman
  • Central Desert Throwsticks - Courtesy - Gary Broadbent Collection

A Weapon From The Dreamtime

The throwstick, or kylie, is an ancient yet scientifically advanced hunting multi-tool which when thrown at a target, maintains a straight and flat flight trajectory across great, open distances. It is capable of taking small and mid sized game at ranges out past at least 80 meters / 87 yards or more. The throwstick hunter doesn't have to worry about trajectory as he would with all other hunting weapons. With the kylie, he just throws directly at the target, whether it be at long range or short range, and the kylie glides straight toward it. Flight distances out to at least 150 meters / 164 yards have been achieved by some full sized ancient throwsticks as well as their full sized modern day equivalents, which we are making here at Throwsticks.com. The average Aboriginal kylie is much larger and heavier than a boomerang, generally weighing between about 300-500 grams / 10-17 ounces, with extremes outside this range being possible as well. The kylie brings down game through the delivery of a tremendous, blunt impact along its thin edges and is capable of breaking bone.

Carnarvon Gorge Queensland Australia

The history of the throwstick is an ancient and obscure one, extending back before written languages into the dreamtime of human history. When our blood was young, and we were surrounded by wilderness on all sides, the throwstick was the hunting weapon of choice to many of our ancient ancestors. A thoughtful examination of ancient artifacts, extensive experimental archaeology and raw scientific research are all needed to gain a true understanding of this obscure topic.

A Global Phenomenon

Throwsticks have been found at archaeological sites on five continents, but the early use of throwsticks in one form or another was probably universal. Even a basic, hardwood, tree branch is more effective at taking small game than a rock. Because of the wide swath a throwstick cuts through the air as it flies, the odds of a hit are increased just like the advantage of a shotgun over a rifle. It wouldn't take long for early humans to realize that by thinning down the stick they would achieve better results and longer ranges.

Tomb Of Nebamun c. 3500 B.C.

Hardwood is a perishable material, so finding a very ancient throwstick is rare. Yet remarkably a large collection were found in the tomb of the Egyptian King Tutankhamun, where they were preserved in pristine condition. A weapon fit for generations of kings, large paintings from multiple ancient Egyptian tombs depict these ancient throwsticks being used to hunt waterfowl. These discoveries give new meaning to the concept of a duck dynasty.

In India and the Americas, throwsticks were known to take small deer by breaking the legs. The Hopi Indians of the South Western United States used throwsticks very effectively, but they were also used in other regions of North America by numerous tribes. Africa and Indonesia are two other notable places where throwsticks were used fairly widely.

Historic Aboriginal Kylies From Eastern Regions Of Australia, Courtesy Of The Gary Broadbent Collection

Most famously, aerodynamically advanced throwsticks were used as a hunting tool fairly extensively throughout Australia by the Aboriginal peoples. In each region of Australia, different traditions, designs and carving techniques were used, resulting in a tremendous variety of very functional, beautiful, and fine designs. The region of origin for a throwstick can be pinpointed by experts just by examining the throwstick itself. Some Aboriginal throwsticks were hand carved into pieces of breathtaking beauty and complexity, and others carried carvings and paintings that told stories. The knowledge of kylie making and tuning developed and passed down in Aboriginal cultures was truly brilliant.

The Desert Wing

Central Desert Karli or Alye

Although used throughout Australia and the world in many different locations and terrain, the throwstick has always had its fullest potential and value realized in the heat of the desert. In the Australian outback where vast, flat, open spaces restrict the cover needed for close range stalking of large game, a long range weapon was a necessity for the hunter. Thus, in the hot central desert of Australia, the Warlpiri and the Arrernte, among other nearby tribes, developed their style of throwstick, which they called "karli" or "alye," to its height of aerodynamic efficiency and long range performance. Over ages of development in this challenging environment, the central desert throwstick was honed into a level of aerodynamic perfection that has became legendary. The desert hunter would carry his throwsticks in pairs and use them for numerous tasks besides hunting. The central desert throwstick was of surpassing quality as a survival tool and it became a commodity to the surrounding tribes. It was traded far off across great distances.

Hopi Throwstick Hunter

In another desert environment, up above the equator, throwsticks were used by the Hopi Indians of Arizona and S. California to take rabbits at ranges out to 50+ meters, even striking their quarry on the run. They found the throwstick to be a more effective tool for this than the bow. In the desert, throwsticks could even take a rabbit on a miss by bouncing off the ground or skimming into the target. In a single night, a desert hunter could come home bringing several rabbits in one hand, with his trusty throwstick in the other. The Hopi considered the throwstick to be the weapon of the gods and many Hopi throwsticks were truly beautiful, vaguely resembling some of their central desert Australian cousins.

Advanced Bushcraft

Historic Stone Tooled Aboriginal Kylie From SW Australia, Courtesy Of The Gary Broadbent Collection

All Aboriginal throwsticks were made from the extremely dense and tough hardwood trees found on the Australian continent. A prominent choice was desert mulga (Acacia nuvera). Yet no matter what wood was selected, the grain of the wood had to go with the bend of the stick so that the stick would not split and break during use. Therefore, the throwstick maker would select a curved or bent portion of a limb or root to utilize to make the throwstick. Throwsticks were carved using stone tools, with animal teeth being used to carve the fine patterns on the surfaces. They were commonly finished with goanna lizard oil, which formed an amazingly beautiful penetrating finish and high sheen, also preventing the throwstick from warping as it dried out with age. Sometimes they would finish throwsticks with ochre which formed a richer red color on the surface of the throwstick, and could perhaps be more easily located in the field. When European settlers brought axes, rasps and other steel tools, the Aboriginal peoples began to use those for manufacturing as well. With or without steel tools, the hours of work needed to create a well tuned throwstick made each one a unique and valuable piece of bushcraft gear for the hunter. Throwsticks came to obtain ceremonial significance among the tribes, and become a central part of the Aboriginal cultures. Used in combination with the spear thrower, which is a penetrating short to mid ranged weapon, the Aboriginal peoples never felt the need to replace the throwstick as their long ranged weapon of choice. One weapon penetrated flesh and the other broke bones.

The End Of The Flight

While the throwstick is an excellent hunting tool, it is a poor weapon for modern warfare, surpassed only marginally by the spear thrower. When the Aboriginal peoples with the advanced flight technology of their throwsticks encountered the imperially supplied Europeans with the advanced explosives technology of their firearms, eventually a bloody conflict took place. This eventually led to the tragic loss of many lives, the dissolution of the ancient Aboriginal cultures and ways of life, and the loss of much of the ancient bushcraft knowledge which had been passed down through the generations. Advanced knowledge of kylie making and tuning was largely lost in the process. It's worth noting that when the Europeans first contacted the indigeneous Australians, they did not themselves have the depth of knowledge of flight technology that the indigeneous peoples had. Yet the outback of Australia is extremely deep and remote, and fresh contact with central desert Aboriginal peoples continued into the mid 20th century when sometimes the first contact would be via a helicopter (which ironically was an invention which was originally inspired by the throwsticks and boomerangs of the Aboriginal peoples themselves.)

The loss of the ancient Aboriginal cultures is a sad and tragic part of history which has occurred in nearly all the indigenous cultures around the world at one time or another, with only a very few indigenous peoples now remaining untouched in the world. It is clear to those who have reverently studied the artifacts left behind by any of these cultures that they had a profound, pragmatic genius. Whether the sling braiding of Peru or the kylie carving in Australia, "primitive" cultures were far more advanced in specialized technology than we often realize they were. If the Aboriginal cultures never developed other technology to the advanced level exhibited in their highly refined flying wings, both kylies and boomerangs, it was probably because they really didn't need anything else to maintain the balance they had long maintained as stewards of their environment. It is a balance which modern man often longs to return to and perhaps he must if he is to remain on this planet at all.