Welcome to another episode of Lacrosse History. My name is Justin Skaggs and today, we’re going to talk about the predecessor of the Lacrosse stick. 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, so 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,” although we did identify 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 at Colgate and an Astronomer at Colgate. He theorizes that the atlatl might be the predecessor to all racquetball and all 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 fil that downtime. So, taking the concept of using a tool as a projectile, and turning that into sport, goes through just 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. Until next time, my name is Justin Skaggs. Take care. Keep LAXin’.
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I'm Justin Skaggs and I am a stick maker out of Philadelphia. I've been working on my craft and going through my journey for some time now, and as part of my journey, I've made it a point to do my homework and do research on the origin of sticks from all around the world. Now, it’s time to spread my knowledge to you. This is Lacrosse History.Today, I want to discuss the world's oldest existing Lacrosse Stick. To be clear, this isn't me saying that this is the oldest lacrosse sticks in terms of what was used throughout history, but rather that this is the oldest surviving lacrosse stick in terms of something that you can go see in a museum today.The oldest known stick is roughly 200 years old, dating back to 1823. You may think this stick is located somewhere in North America, it is not. In actuality, the stick is located in Italy. The stick was taken by an Italian explorer name Giacomo Costantino Beltrami. He brought it back to his hometown of Bergamo, Italy, where it is still located today. In fact, the stick is often referred to as The Beltrami Stick. This stick is a Great Lakes Style stick, so it is very similar to the sticks currently made by Minnesota-based lacrosse stick maker Max Kelsey.This is a game with deep origins from generations past, so I fully recognize that this is likely not the oldest lacrosse stick in existence, but so many of these antique items are difficult to time-stamp, and seeing as museums and archaeologists are so particular about when things are and can be dated, the Beltrami Stick gets this accolade.Until next time, make sure to let me know if you’d like to learn about anything in particular, and I’ll take a look into our archives. There are many more sources about this stick and other books (such as Minnesota Lacrosse: A History and North Country: The Making of MinnesotaLacrosse Legends of the First Americans) that I’ve pulled facts from down below. Until next time, take care, and keep LAXin’.
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