Throwing weapons are designed to give a warrior the ability to strike from a distance. An important counterbalance to weapons for hand-to-hand combat, throwing weapons of various types exist in different cultures.
The spear, a long flexible pole with a sharp point attached, was a fairly international primitive throwing weapon. It evolved in several directions, into javelins—used for sport as well as warfare, pikes, and lances. One of the throwing weapons that has lasted, the spear also had a role in fishing and hunting, and fish spearing is still practiced today.
The sling is a weapon that has existed from ancient times. It is immortalized in the story of the young Jewish shepherd boy, David, who conquered the giant Goliath with this type of throwing weapon in the Old Testament story. A sling, which consists of a strap used to whirl and hurl a stone, is different from the class of throwing weapons called slingshots, which are a y-shaped stick with an elastic strap that can fling small stones.
Tomahawk is an Algonquian name for a hatchet that could be used in hand-to-hand fighting, but if a throwing weapon were needed, could double as a missile. The tomahawk was used by a variety of Native Americans, and were sometimes decorated, or included a pipe. As the use of firearms spread, tomahawks had less importance in warfare and more in ceremony.
Shuriken, which means “hand hidden blade,” known in the West as a Ninja Throwing Star, is a traditional Japanese weapon that is meant to be easily concealed. Although designed as a throwing weapon, the small 4- or 8-pointed shuriken can also be used for stabbing if necessary. This type of throwing weapon was considered a supplement to the larger, more powerful weapons a warrior would wield, such as a sword and spear. The art of the shuriken is a secret part of the curriculum of a number of martial arts.
The boomerang is a flat, curved piece of wood used as a throwing weapon in Australia, but similar weapons occur in Africa, India, and North America. The designs vary quite a bit, even within Australia. Naturally, the type of boomerang used as a throwing weapon is not intended to return to the thrower. The range is about 150 yards (137 m).