Welcome to another episode of Lacrosse History. My name is Justin Skaggs and today, we’re going to talk about the lacrosse stick predecessor.
I’m a stick maker here in Philadelphia, and as part of my stick making journey, I’m making sure I do my homework in studying the history of this game. I thought I’d turn it into a video series to share that information with you guys.
Today, we’re going to try to answer a question I get all the time. The question I get a lot is, “what is the first lacrosse stick?” I think I’ve answered this question, but just to summarize, we really can’t pinpoint the starting point of this great game. Anthropologists can’t go up and find a stick and say, “This is it. This is the first stick.”
We did identify, however, the oldest stick that is still in museums, and you guys can check that out in a previous entry in the Lacrosse History series.
Today, I’m going to try to identify the origin of the concept of the lacrosse stick, and this actually goes through a lot of different sports, and it’s called the “atlatl.” It is a dart-throwing or spear-throwing apparatus that allows a person to shoot a projectile much farther and much harder than they would be able to when using just their arms. This concept came my way when reading a report by Anthony Aveni, who is an anthropologist and astronomer at Colgate. He theorizes that the atlatl might be the predecessor to all racquetball and stickball games. Any time we use a stick to project a ball in sport, it may be due to the vast use of the atlatl. Some sources date this all the way back to the Paleolithic Era, and the dates range a lot, but we can definitely pinpoint down 17,000+ years, and some dates even go back as far as 35,000+ years. So, this is a widely used item, and the only continent that it wasn’t historically or prehistorically used on was Africa, so this was absolutely everywhere.
I extended my research and found that a lot of anthropologists will also attribute a lot of weaponry to sport. Anyone who’s gone hunting understands that there is a lot of down time. The theory is basically that downtime leaves an opening for people to goof around with things that they already have, and they find ways to entertain themselves to fill that downtime. So, taking the concept of using a tool as a projectile, and turning that into sport, goes through a simple process of finding something the comes before the sport in a chronological timeline, and has similar functionalities.
Since we obviously can’t go back and find any written records of people directly correlating any usage of a tool to any more modern version, putting together those bits and pieces of information that we have is essentially what anthropologists do. They find similarities in timeline and functionalities and make assumptions on the progression of tool and items and inventions. Now, that’s just one theory of many, and I’ve found some very interesting ones that are very different concepts of what may be the origin of the game itself. Again, we will never truly know. All we can do it talk about the theories of the lacrosse stick predecessor. Until next time on Lacrosse History, my name is Justin Skaggs. Take care. Keep LAXin’.