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Desert Diary


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Everyone knows that boomerangs are Australian and are famed for returning to the thrower. What every one doesn't know, apparently, is that the name "boomerang" has been applied to more than the returning piece of wood. The hunting boomerangs don't return. Not quite as extreme a banana shape as the returning type, these hunting sticks were designed to be thrown far and accurately. Rotating around their axis, the tips travel at much higher speed than the boomerang as a whole, packing a powerful punch to the intended victim.

These hunting implements have been found archaeologically virtually worldwide, with a Polish example dating back some 20,000 years. In our own Southwest, such hunting boomerangs were widespread both historically and in earlier times. Of course, we usually don't call them boomerangs since that name is connected in our minds as belonging Down Under—instead, archaeologists generally call them rabbit sticks or simply throwing sticks. Guarding a field of maize, a skillful child could not only preserve the crop, but also bring home the bacon—uh, rabbit—for the pot.
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Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.