The use of the throwing wood is verified by rock paintings dating from the Neolithic Age. The throwing wood was mainly a long-range hunting weapon to hunt hares, birds and other small animals. Its character as a battle weapon was lost as soon as the culture reached a higher stage of development. The throwing wood developed separately in different places of the planet.
There are returning boomerangs and a non-returning boomerangs. Non- returning boomerangs were used for hunting. Hunting boomerangs, called Kylies, are about three feet long and have a chord width of three to four inches across, being about one half inch thick and similar in shape to a banana. When thrown they fly straight and do not return to the thrower. A throw stick can fly great distances. One hundred to one hundred fifty yard flights are not uncommon. Throwsticks have been found in many countries such as Egypt, Africa, Poland, Holland, United States and of course Australia, just to name a few.
How it was discovered? The best thinking is that prior to throwing sticks people used clubs to settle their differences. They’d use them like a battle-axe and even throw them at their opponent when they ran away. Perhaps it was discovered that a curved club flew further when thrown than a straight one did. They then realized that a thin club flew further than a thick one. At this point the basic concept of a throwing stick was established and used. In Australia it became engrained into the culture and was handed down from generation to generation.
The oldest known kylie found carbon dated back 20,000 years old and was made from Mammoth tusk! By the way it was found in Poland. Hopi Indians in the Southwest United States used kylies, though they called them rabbit sticks. No matter what you call them the Kylie, throwstick or Rabbit stick was a well-suited weapon for hunting in open country.
It is common belief returning boomerangs originated in Australia. Primarily from the abundance of boomerangs found there and the lack of returning boomerangs anywhere else in the world. Oh sure there are a few examples found in other regions that many return, but that is still questionable.
We really don’t know for fact how was the returning boomerang developed. One day an Aboriginal person was shaping a smaller, lighter slightly more bend throwstick than he normally used. When he tested his small throwstick he was very surprised to observe that it didn’t fly straight at all but rather it started turning back to him. Created by chance or skill? No one really knows. What we do know is they made it and passed the technique down through generations of time and we have it today, thankfully.
Of course the Aborigines used what few tools they had for all manner of tasks. They would use Kylies and boomerangs to dig up roots to eat. They would use them as cooking tools. They would also use them to rub or clack together to make music. They also used them as clubs and for throwing.
Sport enthusiasts in many countries of the world use boomerangs today. Boomerangs are also used in Boomerang Competitions. Some of the events include Long Distance, Fast Catch, Endurance, Trick Catch, Doubling and Accuracy and Aussie round.
Boomerangs today are fashioned in hundreds of different shapes. Some have three or more wings! A boomerang can be crafted to fill a certain niche or have specific flight characteristic. Airfoils can be modified to increase lift or decrease lift. Drag can be added to the design to slow the boomerang down on its return. Even the material itself can be changed.
Today boomerangs can be made from high-grade plywood, exotic woods, plastics of all sorts, resin impregnated paper, linen and fiberglass cloth. Even space age materials like kevlar and carbon fiber are used by some manufactures.
The invention of the boomerang is commonly ascribed to the Australians, however, it is probable to have been invented in India and the ancient Orient; and for ancient Europe it is even proved.
The oldest pieces of evidence for the use of the throwing wood exist of the Young Palaeolithic Age (approx. 5000-1800 BC).
In Greece commonly used weapon with the term “lagobolon” = hare club, hare thrower.
For the North, the use of the boomerang is proved for the bird hunt, approximately at the times of the Goths (from approx. 100 AD).
Northern Scandinavia: Throwing wood known since the Young Stone Age (approx. 5000 BC)
The Urals: Finds from the time of 2000 BC
Poland: Surely the oldest find from the: “Olazowa Cave” in the “Polish Carpathians”
Germany: boomerang find in the: Elbschottern near Magdeburg (approx. 800 - 400 BC).
In North Africa, the constant use of the throwing wood can be proved from the Neolithic Age (from approx. 6000 BC) up to the recent past. It is likely to have been spreading from the North-East to the North-West up to the Atlantic Ocean (Sudan, Cameroon, Guinea, Niger, Morocco, Canary Isles).
Though it was used as a battle weapon, the real application of the throwing wood was hunting. Especially the noble Egyptians used it for the bird hunt. Hardly proved to had been a sign of rank and dignity or as a weapon of the gods or for battle. Throwing woods of ivory with a ritual character (finds from the grave of Tut-anch-Amun, approx. 1340 BC).
In the Near East, advanced civilizations (from approx. 3000 BC) used throwing woods as royal badges, signs of dignity of gods and kings and as symbols. The shape of the throwing woods did not seem to be suitable for practical use. They can be found in the cuneiform script as picture symbols. Most proofs were found within the Assyrian and Babylonian regions. Its land of origin is Babylon.
Later it was transferred to Egypt and Greece; most recent past: the oriental scimitar. According to Winckler the idea of the throwing wood came from the advanced civilizations of the Near East and spread in Europe, Africa, India and even in Australia; Bork maintains that the Australian boomerang was derived from the Babylonian weapon of the gods.
In the region of India, the throwing woods are not very popular. They are used in two regions of the Near East till today (1949). 1. The North Indian throwing wood; the primitive throwing woods were only used for hunting and made of wood. 2. The South Indian throwing wood, which was used as a battle weapon before India became a British colony.
In the region of America, throwing woods were highly important as hunting weapons. The throwing wood was used for the first time approx. in 100 AC and was used for the rabbit and duck hunt. The building material was wood.
There is a striking concentration of the use of throwing woods in the South-Western part of Northern America. After a detour to the South-East the throwing wood made its way to the East to today?s Canada. There it mainly served as a battle weapon, which caused the throwing wood to alter its shape and to be shaped more and more like a hatchet.
On its way to the South it reached Mexico, where it was mainly used to hunt hares. Additionally, the throwing wood was treated as a weapon of the gods.
The throwing wood can be found sporadically on the southern continent as well. And in todays Brazil sorcerers are said to have known boomerangs.
On South Celebes, throwing woods were used to drive birds out of the rice fields. On Central Celebes, Java and Sumatra and also in Queensland, a cross-like throwing wood, made of bamboo splinters, serves as a toy for children. It has a boomerang-like flight line and became known as a “cross boomerang”, though it generally “does not have anything in common with the boomerang”, according to Lenoch.
Australia is todays main country of the throwing wood, although the throwing wood cannot be found in all the regions of Australia. The throwing wood does not exist e. g. in the extreme north and in Tasmania. In addition, the throwing wood is not used as a battle weapon in the other regions. The thinnest and lightest throwing wood can be found in Western Australia, where it is used mostly for fish hunting. In Southern Australia, the throwing wood is also used to hunt fish, but it is much heavier there.
The existence of the real boomerang is restricted to the East and the South and also to Southern Australia. It is not nearly as popular as the throwing wood and is always found in the company of the throwing wood. In its shape, the boomerang differs slightly from the throwing wood and even natives need to throw it to make a distinction.