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Aboriginal Australian Using A Woomera To Spearfish

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New Member
Sep 8, 2023
*Note: I saw this video a few months back and decided to do some research. I ended up writing an article for the The Stone Shot. Here's that article :D

How Did They Spearfish Thousands Of Years Ago?​

For centuries, spearfishing has played a vital role in the cultural identity of many societies. From ancient Egypt to indigenous communities in the Pacific Islands, spearfishing was a key part of daily life.

In the case of Aboriginal Australians, spearfishing can be traced back as far as 40,000 years ago. So, how did indigenous Australians spearfish? Well, they used a tool very similar to ones found in many other ancient societies…

The Woomera​

Picture this: a carved out wooden shaft, a hard resin handle at one end and a peg to guide the spear at the other end. That, my friends, is the Woomera—a tool that's been the secret weapon behind Aboriginal Australians' spearfishing prowess for centuries.


Essentially, a woomera uses leverage to increase the speed and distance of the spear. It acts as an extension of a spear throwers arm. The best way to imagine this is to think of those tennis ball throwers that dog owners use.

The Woomera and Spearfishing​

Spearfishing with a Woomera is a delicate dance of skill and precision. As Aboriginal Australians ventured into shallow waters in search of fish, their actions were guided by generations of passed-down knowledge. When they approached their prey, they would adjust the Woomera for the perfect shot and release the spear—a beautiful fusion of physical skill and deep understanding. Check below for a video of a Woomera in action.

Fun Facts​

  • The woomera is found in a number of ancient societies. Historians believe that most of the societies developed the tool independently of one and other.
  • A common name for the woomera is atlatl.
  • Woomera’s primary function was throwing spears, but they also served as shields, clubs or even serving trays for food.
Video - A woomera in action

PS - I write a weekly email newsletter on all things spearfishing. And it's completely free. Sign up here
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The title is misleading. Aboriginal people did use spears and did hunt fish but it was all above water. This is as relevant as other culture using bows and arrows to catch fish. I’m not sure if your use of the term “spearfishing” in this instance is quiet accurate. Most just refer to it as hunting albeit with a spear.
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