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North Carolina Era 1 – Precolonial (to 1600): Atlatl weight artifact lesson

Atlatl weight artifact lesson

LESSON: Atlatl weights
UNIT: North Carolina Era 1 – Precolonial (to 1600)

  • Learners will examine photographs of artifacts and work cooperatively to infer
    what they were used for and how they were made.
  • Learners will work cooperatively.
  • Learners will engage in critical thinking.

LEARNING TARGET: “I can analyze photographs of artifacts to understand more about the lives of Native Americans.”

Time needed: 10 - 15 minutes


  • copies of artifact photographs – one set per group
    • of the first two pages (4 artifacts) can be front and back
    • the last artifact photograph (2 artifacts in one photograph) should
      be copied separately
  • print or prepare to project the second page of the pdf from Teaching With Historic Places and the pdf from Amistad National Recreation Area if you intend to share with students

1. Class questions: What is an artifact? How can they help modern people to
understand past cultures and peoples?
2. Put students into groups of three or four.
3. Explain that students will work cooperatively to examine photographs of artifacts
from the Ramsey Center Archives that were used for the same function. Students
are to decide what the artifacts were used for and how they were made.
4. Hand out packets including artifact photographs of the first four artifacts and the
graphic organizer for the activity.
5. Allow students time to examine the photographs and discuss.
6. Ask groups to share their findings.
7. Go over the actual uses of atlatls and how they were made. The pdf is an excellent resource for this. The pdf of how to make an atlatl can be used here as well. There mare also videos of atlatls in use on YouTube. (The holes in the weights were made by using river cane. The cane was balanced on the weight and then spun between the hands using sand and water for added friction. By this method, the amount of
stone that had to be worn away was much less than excising the entire hole in a piece.)
8. Pass out the last photograph (boatstones) and tell students these were a form of atlatl weight. Ask how they would have been used in the same way as they ones they looked at previously. (These would have been tied to the projectile staff.)


Class discussion and teacher observation.


Mars Hill University Southern Appalachian Archives – Ruskin Collection

National Park Service: Amistad

National Park Service: Effigy Mounds National Monument

National Park Service: Yosemite


Artifact photos can be found here.