Spear-throwers are indigenous devices that seem to have been invented independently in both the Old World and the New World. Although the weapons require considerable practice to use properly, when the technique is mastered, the spear-thrower has two clear advantages over throwing a spear by hand. First, it allows the user to hunt from a greater distance than would be feasible otherwise, thus affording one both greater safety and an element of surprise.
The Bliss spear-thrower is an elegant one. The wooden body of this launching implement is partially sheathed in gold. It is outfitted with a hook, also made of gold, which positioned the shaft end of the missile (spear or dart) on the launcher. The metal components of the object are decorated sheath, a plain sheath, and a band or collar near the distant end, associated with a bird-like hook.
The level of craftsmanship of this stylish weapon may indicate that it was made for a purpose other than simple hunting or food procurement.
Benson, Elizabeth P. 1963 Handbook of the Robert Woods Bliss Collection of Pre-Columbian Art. Dumbarton Oaks, Trustees for Harvard University, Washington, D.C., p. 67, cat. 373.
Bliss, Robert Woods 1957 Pre-Columbian Art: The Robert Woods Bliss Collection. Text and Critical Analyses by S. K. Lothrop, Joy Mahler and William F. Foshag. Phaidon, New York. p. 276, cat. 319, pl. CXXXI.
Bliss, Robert Woods 1959 Pre-Columbian Art: The Robert Woods Bliss Collection. 2nd ed. Text and Critical Analyses by S. K. Lothrop, Joy Mahler and William F. Foshag. Phaidon, London. p. 284, cat. 319, pl. CXXXI.
Boone, Elizabeth Hill (ED.) 1996 Andean Art at Dumbarton Oaks. Pre-Columbian Art at Dumbarton Oaks; No. 1. Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, D.C., p. 244-7, pl. 62.
Lothrop, Samuel K. 1954 A Peruvian Goldsmith's Grave. Archaeology Spring 1954:31-36. p. 31-36.
"Indigenous Art of the Americas", National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, November 1952 to July 1962.
Purchased from Walram von Schoeler, New York (dealer), by Robert Woods Bliss, ca.1953.
Robert Woods Bliss Collection of Pre-Columbian Art, Washington, DC, 1953-1962.
Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Pre-Columbian Collection, Washington, DC.