This is a RARE large bifacial atlatl spearhead from the Pre-Columbian Mayan Empire. It was made from black obsidian and while one side is flat and nearly unifacial, it features delicate secondary flaking all along its edges. The opposing side is a bulbous and robust design that would have given the point strength when hafted on the end of a spear shaft and launched by an atlatl thrower. The thick cross-section would have sustained a strong impact typical for a spear. The workmanship is truly breath-taking! The entire surface has been pressure flaked to create a smooth surface paved with hundreds of tiny dimples where very small flakes were removed in the expert pressure-flaking technique. The symmetry, size and quality of workmanship, along with an insanely sharp, perfect tip means this point was a prestige masterpiece weapon. Mineral and sediment can be seen deep in flake scars which are indicators ONLY found in AUTHENTIC specimens such as this. Caution must be applied in acquiring ancient obsidian artifacts because the stone does not patinate on the surface like other lithic types.
Obsidian was prized by the ancient Pre-Columbian Indians and even today, it is still used in modern medicine for scalpel blades as obsidian can flake to an edge one molecule thick, thereby attaining a level of sharpness impossible to achieve with a steel scalpel. As a matter of fact, aside from using lasers in modern surgery, the preferred scalpel is one from obsidian. Because of its sharpness, obsidian leaves less of a scar and does less tissue damage than a scalpel or knife made of any other substance known to Man. Obsidian is 15 times sharper than surgical steel, It’s no wonder that obsidian became a valuable tool in medicine and warfare when you consider that at an obsidian scalpel can rival diamond in the fineness of its edge. Common household razor blades are 100 times thicker than obsidian!
In warfare, the Mayans utilized both, long-distance weapons and close-combat weapons. Long distance weapons included bow and arrow, blowgun, slings and throwing spears. Around 400 A.D. the atlatl spear thrower was introduced to the Mayans from Teotihuacan and it soon became the Mayans’ dominant long distance weapon. The atlatl greatly increased the accuracy, force and range of the thrown spear. Historical records document Spaniard steel armor being penetrated by spears launch from atlatl spear throwers. Later in the Post-Classic period, the bow and arrow became increasingly used by Mayan warriors.
The atlatl or spear (dart) thrower, was a weapon used to hurl darts with greater force and from greater range than they could be thrown by hand. Murals at Teotihuacan show warriors using this effective weapon, and it is characteristic of the Mesoamerican cultures of central Mexico. Warriors at the front lines of the army would carry the atlatl and about three to five throwing darts which they would launch after waves of arrows and sling projectiles as they advanced into battle before engaging into melee combat. The "darts" launched from an atlatl were more like big arrows about 5.9 feet long. They were tipped with obsidian, chert, bone or copper projectile points.
Of all the ancient cultures of the Americas, no civilization has held more intrigue and secrets for so long as that of the Mayans. In 1960, their language code of glyphs was finally deciphered and forever changed our view of what we initially thought was a peaceful and harmonious society. On the contrary, the Mayan Culture of the latter years was bathed in the blood of vicious warfare and astounding levels of human sacrifice. Their technology was so advanced it is no wonder many believe they received intelligence from extra-terrestrials. Despite our recent discoveries of Mayan mathematics, astronomy and calendar technology, the Mayans still leave us with many mysteries. Their love of war caused them to manufacture spectacular weapons with inherent beauty and artistry. Their ceramics depict a fascinating culture of status, sacrifice and deep religious devotion to a number of strange gods.
Archaeologists divide the Mayan Culture into different periods - LATE PRECLASSIC / TERMINAL PRECLASSIC (350 BC - 250 AD), EARLY CLASSIC (250 AD - 550 AD), LATE CLASSIC (550 AD - 830 AD), TERMINAL CLASSIC (830 AD - 950 AD). The earliest days of the Maya date back to 2000 BC when small farming villages first appeared in the highlands and Pacific coastline of Guatemala. Crops such as corn, squash and beans made up the staple of their diet and are believed to have been brought from previous migration through Mexico. The Maya pottery styles were unique to the early Maya settlements, though. By 1000 BC, villages sprang up in the lowland regions. The Maya lived in the same locations for centuries and in a continuous state of architectural improvement and expansion leading up to the magnificent 'super-cities' we associate with them today. By 300 AD. full-scale cities were being built with stone featuring massive plazas, temples and pyramids reaching 20 stories high.
It is no wonder that some believe that extra-terrestrial beings brought their knowledge to the Maya. By 300 AD, the first inscriptions suddenly appeared in Maya sites. These early inscriptions were so beautiful it was as if the gods had delivered it to the Mayan themselves! Forward to 600 years later and the inscriptions cease. The first comprehensive writing system in Pre-Columbian America was invented by the Maya. Among the mysteries of the Maya are their amazing understanding of astronomy along with the development of an accurate calendar and mathematical system. Their number system was based on units of 20 and included a concept of 'zero'.
The skills of the Mayan craft are exemplified in their stone and wood carvings, flaked stone objects, pottery and personal adornment. Much of their art centers around their devotion to a religion that is both fascinating and gory. Blood-letting rituals were the norm and many acts of war were motivated by the capture of vast numbers of their enemies for ritual human sacrifice that would run for days on end, forming lakes of blood and fat at the bases of their stone pyramids that defy architectural explanation.
Our understanding of the fascinating MAYAN CULTURE was completely wrong and misinterpreted until as recent as the 1960, when major achievements were made in the deciphering of their glyph language. Elaborately designed ceremonial cities lacking any obvious defenses initially led us to believe that the Mayans were a peaceful theocracy living in ideal harmony with their environment and each other. We could not have been further from the truth. Lowland city-states lived in constant warfare with one another and the thirst of their gods for human blood and sacrifice seemed impossible to satiate.
Perhaps a lesson for us today, recent scientific analysis of the demise of the highly advanced Mayan civilization now answers the biggest mystery of all - "What ever happened to the ancient Mayans?". Long-term high population density (500 people per square mile - the highest in the world at the time) of unbelievable proportions put a strain on their agricultural system that was impossible to sustain. The effects of nutritional deficiencies are evident in bone and tooth analysis on graves dating to the Late Classic Period. It is most probable that starvation put unbearable sociopolitical stress on the society to either kill each other for food or die of hunger necessitated by the technological advancement of warfare and its escalation.