Paul Smith’s College to face SUNY Potsdam in “Atlatl Battle”

Oct 13, 2016 | News

Teams to square off at SUNY Potsdam on Saturday, Oct. 15, at 1 p.m.

On Saturday, October 15, students from Paul Smith’s College and SUNY Potsdam will reboot a collegiate competition on the SUNY Potsdam campus using a hunting tool used worldwide thousands of years ago.

Each team, consisting of about 10 students and one faculty thrower, will be hurling an arrow-like spear upwards of 6 feet long using what’s called an atlatl. This shaped wooden stick, just under arm’s length, can propel the large arrow at speeds approaching 100 mph-in this case at a target with a trophy up for grabs.

The atlatl works using the same principles a plastic tennis ball-thrower that pet owners may be familiar with.

Paul Smith’s College professor Curt Stager explained that evidence of atlatl use has been found on every continent but Antarctica, some dating back to 17,900 years ago. In other words, a hunting tool with an ancestral connection to anyone.

While practice has had a fun feel-the Paul Smith’s team is called the Barkeaters because when they miss the imaginary wooly mammoth and hit a tree, it’s bark for dinner-the competition is part of a broader area of research carried out in the North Country.

Archeological finds have been made both at Paul Smith’s and SUNY Potsdam, and Stager and SUNY Potsdam archaeologist Tim Messner are collaborating on expanding knowledge of native peoples in the North Country.

The Atlatl Battle, said Stager, is a public face for ground-breaking and student-involved research that’s been going on in the area for years and calls attention to a hidden heritage that’s changing the understanding of the area’s history.

Messner and SUNY Potsdam have challenged other colleges’ atlatlers in the past, but this year’s reviving of the competition is one Stager hopes will continue and evolve.

“It’s a nice natural fit to have both schools with students and faculty interested in this subject,” Stager added. “One in the lowlands and one in the uplands, all considered home to indigenous peoples for thousands of years. We still see it that way, the whole North Country as our home.”

About Paul Smith’s College
At Paul Smith’s College, it’s about the experience. We are the only four-year institution of higher education in the Adirondacks. Our programs – in fields including hospitality, culinary arts, forestry, natural resources, entrepreneurship and the sciences – draw on industries and resources available in our own backyard while preparing students for successful careers anywhere. For more information, visit



Contact Us »

Andy Johnstone
Media Specialist
Phelps Smith Admin Building Room 207
(518) 524-6355