Dozens of curious hunters took to the old ball field in Unalaska early this month, with hopes of discovering the mysteries of an ancient weapon. The fourth Alaska Atlatl Competition early this month was cosponsored by the tribe, the National Park Service and the Museum of the Aleutians as an introduction to the weapon of choice for traditional Aleut hunters. The atlatl - known in the Unangan languages as a "haasux" - is a throwing board that serves as a launching pad for a spear. Used by a skilled thrower, the spear can generate the power of a 60-pound bow. In practical use, the atlatl has been retired for nearly a century. The last traditional hunt with the weapon in Unalaska was in 1908 when sea otters were targeted. "It's kind of an awkward thing if you haven't been shown as kids, but it's a traditional thing," said Patty Gregory, who remembered making an atlatl while attending Unalaska City School in the 1970s. Dimensions of the traditional atlatl throwing board and spear were based on the length of the forearm, fingers and other parts of the hunter. Weapons were always thrown right handed, thanks to the design of bentwood hunting caps whose whiskers protruded from the left side
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