Dart (missile)

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Description:
Darts are missile weapons, designed to fly such that a sharp, often weighted point will strike first. They can be distinguished from javelin by fletching (i.e., feathers on the tail) and a shaft that is shorter and/or more flexible, and from arrows by the fact that they are not of the right length to use with a normal bow.

The term has been used to describe an extremely wide variety of projectiles, from heavy spear-like ammunition for siege engines or atlatls to tiny poisoned needles for use in blowguns.

Prehistory

Some of the earliest evidence of advanced tool use includes remnants of an early type of dart, which can be considered the ancestor of arrows as well as bows (see Operation). Reconstructions of this system have a range of over one hundred meters (yards) and can penetrate several centimeters of oak. This technology was used worldwide from the Upper Palaeolithic (late Solutrean, c. 18,000-16,000 BC) until the development of archery made it obsolete (see Replacement).

Construction

The darts in question are much larger than arrows, but noticeably lighter than javelins. They have a weighted point, often of stone, on a removable foreshaft. This is held by friction onto a thin, flexible main shaft a few meters in length, with fletching and a (usually socket-like) nock at the opposite end. Since they are unlike anything in Western history, the term "dart" has been adopted after some debate. Some alternate terms for this missile have included the spear, but...
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