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This weapon is not a boomerang – it is its much heavier sibling from the Indian subcontinent

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Posted November 23, 2019

Everyone knows what a boomerang is. It is an ancient weapon of aboriginal Australians, who used it for hunting. Valari is a similar weapon, which is even older, dating back to the Upper Paleolithic (late Stone age). And it is very interesting both in its construction and use. If you saw it somewhere in a flea market, you wouldn’t even immediately recognize it as a weapon.

Valari looks a lot like boomerang, but it is actually older and is traditionally cast from iron. Image credit: Fxpremji via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Valari is an ancient weapon of the Tamil people, living in the Indian subcontinent. Some believe it is actually a predecessor of the boomerang, although it is difficult to say if these weapons were not developed in parallel. Valari was used for hunting, defence and war. It is a throwing weapon, which limits its use against other people (once you throw it, it is difficult to find and retrieve it).

Valari is made in many different shapes and sizes, but traditionally it is asymmetrical. It is typically made from cast iron, although in some cases cast iron just covers the top of the two limbs. Traditional valari has two limbs – one is very thin and tapers to a small round point, while the other is rounded and is used as a handle. Just like the usual hunting boomerang, valari does not return when thrown. It is meant to fly a long distance and maintain a straight direction to hit the target flush and strong. What is that target?

Well, valari was sometimes used in war, but those cases were rare. More usually valari was used to defend cattle from predators or for hunting. It is believed that it was the weapon of choice when Tamils went deer hunting. In order to improve its effectiveness valari was sometimes fitted with blades. In other occasions spikes were incorporated in its design. But most often it was simply a throwing blunt weapon and quite a heavy one at that.

Aiming and throwing valari requires a bit of skill and physical strength, but it is not too difficult. If you know what you’re doing, you can add spin or throw it completely straight and stable without any spin whatsoever. Spinning blows were stronger and, if targeted at the head or neck, could be deadly. Meanwhile slower straight throws had less power and were used to catch the predator or to capture the enemy in battle.

Blunt throwing cast iron weapons are very rare. This is because casting iron requires a lot of energy, which can be used more efficiently making something sharp like a dagger or a spear. Valari is also very heavy and easy to lose. If it hits something hard, it can break, leaving the thrower without the weapon.

On the other hand, valari was compact, easy to carry, simple in its design. It was developed over thousands of years and could be effective in right hands. It is a weapon, which is almost unknown compared to boomerang and it could be its predecessor.

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