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W962We have several items in the Egypt Centre which are fragments of model throwsicks:

W962 (with the name of Akhenaten); EC295; EC528; and W1007 (a post Amarna type).

These items are also known as boomerangs, and indeed, experimental work has shown that wooden examples will return to the thrower. Faience examples are assumed to be models because of their likelihood of breaking when thrown. In fact, most faience throwsticks are found in fragments. Only one of ours (W107) is a complete model example. Wooden ones seem to have been used for hunting birds and faience examples for rituals associated with the king.

While wooden examples are found in private tombs, faience ones are never found in such contexts. Additionally, faience versions are known from royal tombs and from temples but rarely found on domestic sites. An exception includes: a throwstick found in the Palace of the King at Malkata (Metropolitan Museum of Art 11.215.510; Hayes 1959, 252); examples from the city of Amarna (Pendlebury 1951, 70-1[1]). They may also be found in foundation deposits. At least two are known from the foundation deposit of Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahri (Metropolitan Museum of Art 23.3.82; and Cairo Museum JE 47715; Pinch 1993, 295). Throwsticks appear in some cases to be associated with Hathor. Votive examples sometimes describe the king as ‘beloved of Hathor’ (Pinch 1993, 295).

According to fishing and fowling scenes on tomb walls, the throwstick was used for the hunting of birds. Like the more famous, Australian boomerang, it seems that some throwsticks were designed to return to their owner when thrown. Pitt-Rivers described his experiments with a copy of an ancient Egyptian wooden throwstick:

 I have practiced with the boomerangs of different nations. I made a facsimile of the Egyptian boomerang in the British Museum, and practised with it for some time upon Wormwood Scrubs, and found that in time I could increase the range from fifty to one hundred paces, which is much further than I could throw an ordinary stick of the same size with accuracy. I also succeeded in at last obtaining a return flight, so that the weapon, after flying seventy paces forward, returned to within seven paces of the position in which I was standing. [Lane-Fox 1872; see also Pitt-Rivers 1883)

The question remains as to how faience boomerangs could function. Feucht (1992) came to the conclusion that throwsticks were associated with the king and represent rituals involving fishing and fowling. They may be associated with new life. The Egyptian word for ‘to throw’ and ‘to beget’ are similar. Pinch (1993, 296-7) points out their similarity to apotropaic wands. Certainly in the Coffin Texts they have an apotropaic function; the deceased protects themselves from snake-shaped demons by a throwstick.

The overall design of the throwstick and decoration upon faience examples changed over time (outlined by Pinch 1993, 295). Amarna throwsticks have a more shallow curve than earlier ones, perhaps suggesting that they had ceased to be an object for actual hunting. Inscribed faience throwsticks of pharaohs are known for 19th and 19th Dynasties.


Feucht, E. 1992, Fishing and fowling with the spear and the throwstick reconsidered. In Luft, U. (ed) The Intellectual heritage of Egypt. Studies presented to László Kákosy by friends and colleagues on the occasion of his 60th birthday. Budapest, 157-169.

Hayes, C. 1959. The Sceptre of Egypt: The Hyksos Period and the New Kingdom (1675-1080), New York.

Lane-Fox, A.H. 1872 ‘Opening Address to Section D, sub-section Anthropology of the British Association Meeting at Brighton, 1872’, Nature 6:  323- 4, 341-3.

Loeben, C. 1987. A Throwstick of Princess Nfr-Nfrw-Ra, with Additional Notes on Throwsicks. Annales du Service des Antiquités de l’Egypte 71: 143-159.

Pendlebury J.D.S. 1951, The City of Akhenaten Part III, Text. Egypt Exploration Society: London.

Pinch, G. 1993. Votive Offerings to Hathor. Oxford.

Pitt-Rivers,A.L.F. 1883. ‘On the Egyptian Boomerang and its affinities’ Journal of the Anthropological Institute, 12: 454-63.

Stevens, A. Private Religion at Amarna. The material evidence. Oxford.


[1] Over 20 fragments of throwsticks were found at Amarna (Stevens  2006, 18).