In my book series, there is a planet called Aztlan. The Aztlanians are essentially based on a mix of Aztec, Maya, and Inca cultures, with hints of Olmec, Nazca, and Mapuche thrown in.

For example, the entire planet is governed by Tlatoani (Emperor) Montezuma XV, but the administration is much more similar to that of the Inca (they use quipu for recordkeeping and have a road system called the Qhapaq Nan that links the entire planet together).

As a result, the planet's warriors and hunters use appropriate weapons (macuahuitl, macana, atlatl, tlacochtli, slings, bows, etc).

However, there is one massive thing that sets this world apart from our own: in addition to the wildlife present in our world, non-avian dinosaurs of all groups and species roam Aztlan. While these animals behave and are dealt with like present animals for the most part, some of the more massive and dangerous ones (i.e. T. Rex, Yutyrannus, Allosaurus, Giganotosaurus, Sauropods in general, large Ceratopsians and Stegosaurids, etc.) are often problematic when they cross paths with humans (What if a hungry pack of T Rex attacks your village or a Sauropod gets pissed off and starts wrecking your city?)

My question is, with the weapons and culture outlined above in mind, how are the Aztlanians going to contain and potentially kill any large rogue dinos they find themselves forced to deal with for whatever reason?

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    $\begingroup$ Wizards of the Coast called...they want Ixalan back. $\endgroup$
    – Qami
    Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 12:13
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    $\begingroup$ What makes you think neolithic weapons effective against mastodon couldn't deal with a dinosaur? $\endgroup$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 12:45
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    $\begingroup$ "Pack" of T-rex? $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 18:38
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    $\begingroup$ @Qami: Or Chult? Though that's a mix of African and Mesoamerican influences, apparently leaning more towards the former. $\endgroup$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 7:37
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    $\begingroup$ I read once about an African tribe that hunted elephants with spears. Most of the work was for the brave hunter to camouflage himself and disguise his odour with elephant dung. Then he was able to sneak right under an elephant and spear it in the belly. Surprisingly, he got away alive more often than not. But even if he didn't, one elephant can feed a tribe for a long time. $\endgroup$
    – nigel222
    Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 14:14

7 Answers 7


Don't forget that real world humans hunted large beasts like mammoths and whales, just using spears, slingshots and fire (well, fire not for the whales).

When it comes to projectile weapons, Aztecs can count on


The atlatl was a spear thrower, which produced greater force from a greater distance. Only the highest ranks were allowed these weapons as they were in the front lines of the battle. Each warrior carrying the atlatl also carried many tlacochtli, 5.9 foot long spears tipped with obsidian.

atlatl gif from tumblr

War Bow and Arrows

The tlahhuitolli was a five foot long war bow strung with animal sinew. Warriors carried their arrows, barbed with obsidian, flint or chert and fletched with turkey feathers in a micomitl or quiver. Quivers could hold about 20 arrows.


Aztec warriors and hunters carried slings made of maguey cactus fiber. The warriors collected rocks as they marched. They also made clay balls spiked with obsidian and full of obsidian flakes. Even well armored enemies could be wounded by these.


Blowguns and poisoned darts were more often used in hunting, but Aztec warriors trained in ambush would bring along their tlacalhuazcuahuitl and darts tipped with poisonous tree frog secretions.

And they had the most lethal weapon that ever appeared on this planet: the human brain.

Using those I am pretty confident wild beasts of any size could be managed and contained.

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    $\begingroup$ Some nice additions to this answer could be the use of pit traps and herding/ luring the beasts towards these. Other variations of this tactic exist as well, like luring/ herding it in a canyon/ crevasse and dropping large, heavy boulders on top of it. $\endgroup$
    – Robin
    Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 8:40
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe I'm excessively old fashioned, but out those all weapons I'd simply opt for wonderweapon from Paleocene - spear throwers, as in this case their poor accuracy would be compensated by excessive damage. Our ancestors used them to cause mass extinction of megafauna, so they would be perfectly suitable. $\endgroup$
    – Shadow1024
    Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 8:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Shadow1024 poor accuracy? $\endgroup$
    – user151841
    Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 20:08
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    $\begingroup$ @user151841 AFAIR: accuracy was the main reason why it got replaced by bow. $\endgroup$
    – Shadow1024
    Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 20:39
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    $\begingroup$ OK, for sure in the past it was clearly claimed in scientific community, that the issue of accuracy was the decisive factor. Apparently right now there seems to be a debate about it. npr.org/sections/13.7/2017/04/06/522562042/… $\endgroup$
    – Shadow1024
    Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 21:26

Well, humans will be humans, so I have no doubt that they'll prevail. Because they already did in the past.

Are the dino actively at war with the humans? No. This means that the humans will, first thing, learn to make their habitat dinosaur-free. Villages will be located in places with less dangerous predators, or in places which will be less accessible to them. They will build moats, stake fences, fires around the villages, whatever works. The only dinosaurs that will be able to reach them will be the kind of danger that the humans will be able to manage on their own.

Then their culture will adapt. Some dinosaurs will be domesticated, wither for food of convenience. Others will become spirits or legends. Some of them will have spiritual value. Maybe killing a special dinosaur would be a requirement to be chieftain, or shamans will want feathers from another one. Dinosaurs won't be "this dangerous thing", they will be "that dangerous part of our own culture". You will see jewelry made from dino parts, leather from their hides, candles from their fat, harpoons from their bones and whatnot.

They will learn how to kill them. Not fight them. Fighting is for show. Killing is for survival. They will learn to bait them with poison or other means of killing them (I'm thinking about sharpened stakes bent and tied with grass which will dissolve in the stomach, hidden in some meat. I forgot how this is called but it's an awful way to go for a predator). To steal their eggs. To burn their nests. They will build traps: foothold traps, deadfalls, snares, falling into an inescapable water body, treefalls/ boulders... some of these won't be clean death, but these traps aren't designed to be humane. They kill, even if it's an awful death.

If the dino are important threat enough, a special caste will be created to deal with them. Dino knights, Dino hunters, Spiritual protectors... you can twist this caste in many different ways, but they remain the same: specialists.

If the dino are even more of a threat, there won't be a caste, because everybody will be part of it. Protecting a community from danger will be every warrior-hunter responsibility.

So, here's what I'm thinking: if these humans did evolve there, you have to think along the line "how did they get the higher hand enough to form complex societies?". That's not how you get human-dino warfare, to be honest. More like human-dino guerilla, at best. On the other hand, if the dino suddenly appears in this world, the humans will be completely taken by surprise, with a culture and a way of life unsuited to this new threat. This would force them to adapt quickly, making it possible for great leaders to improve on what's already existing in brand new manners, forcing humans either to change their habitat (think whole villages changing location) or to adapt them (read: "fortify them"). Both choices have very interesting narrative possibilities.

  • $\begingroup$ "Because they already did in the past." You mean the last time that humans and dinos cohabited ? $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 16:07
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    $\begingroup$ @PierreCathé Ummm...yes. That happened. $\endgroup$
    – kingledion
    Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 16:21
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    $\begingroup$ @kingledion I love that you write this but also have a gold badge for [science based] $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 16:31
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    $\begingroup$ @PierreCathé Sure. Wait, no! I mean that humans did adapt to many different type of threats, whether it was natural predators or others. Of course. $\endgroup$
    – laancelot
    Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 16:34
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    $\begingroup$ @laancelot. I really like this answer. It emphasizes that I often feel sci-fi/fantasy authors miss: the far-reaching consequences of a plot element, rather than just scratching the surface with "same as what we know, but with dinosaurs". $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 16:28

Other dinosaurs!

triceratops prevails! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_sBLmN0oV-8

Triceratops and other ceratopsians have a herd structure like Cape buffalo (I here assert!). Strength in numbers means that the herd is usually immune to large predators with any sense, because once the predator closes with its chosen prey the others in the herd flank it and gore it. Like buffalo they are aggressive and play offense as well as defense. If a predator is in the area they might well take the fight to her.

The herd structure also means that, like water buffalo, ceratopsians can be tamed. The productivity of corn as a crop means that the tame ones are well fed and bigger than their wild counterparts. Your natives can ride these great beasts, or take them on a predator hunt like a pack of hounds and turn them loose when prey (the predator!) is sighted.

Ceratopsians are also territorial and penned correctly, present an obstacle to the ingress of smaller wild herbivores. Like elephants these eat a lot of corn when they get in the fields.

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    $\begingroup$ Reality check: A large male aurochs could clearly kill a lion in a 1 on 1 encounter, being 5x the lion's size or more and with large pointy horns. Does anyone use cattle to hunt lions? $\endgroup$
    – kingledion
    Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 16:22
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    $\begingroup$ @kingledion: There is no shortage of videos showing buffalo beating up lions, should you be inclined. As regards involvement of humans, I assert that this sad deficiency is because owners of buffalo and cattle lack awesomeness. This can be remedied in proposed fiction. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 16:44
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    $\begingroup$ @kingledion I don't know about lions specifically, but I believe one non uncommon use for donkeys and mules is defending other livestock against coyotes, foxes, and other predators. $\endgroup$
    – Zwuwdz
    Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 22:36
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    $\begingroup$ @Zwuwdz Guard llamas are a thing. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 13:54
  • $\begingroup$ @kingledion. I had the same gut feeling. I'm glad it turns out that this answer has some validity. On llamas from the linked Wikipedia article: "Although llamas have been known to kill predators (such as coyotes), they should not be considered attack animals." I bet buffaloes, on the other hand, are straight up attack animals.... $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 16:31

Modern humans (in form at least) have several major advantages over dinosaurs. Humans are warm-blooded endurance hunters with much greater intellect than dinosaurs, and they breed like flies in comparison. In our own world history humans have hunted anything and everything that can be either a threat or a source of food... including other humans. We are so damned good at it that there are a lot of species that aren't around anymore as a direct result of us finding them either tasty or too dangerous to live next to. Humans with weapons made of wood, bone and bits of stone killed off a number of big, nasty animals.

The same will be true of the dinosaurids of Aztlan.

The template cultures for your humans are largely warrior cultures who value personal bravery and such very highly. Individuals will likely hunt dangerous beasts to prove their worth as warriors as a rite of passage. The most respected and powerful warriors will likely have necklaces made from the teeth of the most fearsome carnivores they can find. T-Rex teeth would make fine trophies.

Recent research suggests that dinosaurs may have been mesotherms, so the old "wait until it gets cold and catch it while it can't move" methods probably aren't going to be entirely effective. You'll need some more direct methods.

Classic Weapons

Every human civilization at some point has figured out that having a long stick with a pointy bit on one end is a great way to hurt something without it being able to get close enough to hurt you. And every single one of those figured out that if you could throw the pointy stick you could get a little more time to run or prepare your next defense. Spears (Aztec: tepoztopilli), javelins and so on are staples of every early human hunting group. Refinements of these - like spears with a cross-brace to catch a charging boar - were still common up until recent times, and spears are still used by some enthusiasts to hunt with.

The next step up is using some mechanism to help you throw those spears further. Spear throwers - Atlatl, Woomera and so on - are common until bows (Aztec: tlahuitolli) are invented. They give advantages like being able to strike at an enemy from a place of safety. Stand on top of a cliff and rain death down on a creature below you and you don't have to worry about the thing fighting back much.

Of course you can also use something very much like a spear thrower to throw stones. Or just go with the good old sling (tematlatl), which is also remarkably common. Medieval slingers could take out cavalry units by killing the horses with rocks to the head from a hundred yards. Or perhaps worse, breaking their legs.

Thematically Appropriate

Apart from the atlatl, another South American classic is the Bola. Might be a bit harder to swing one that is big enough to inconvenience a T-Rex, but you'd be surprised at how effective these buggers can be. Not just for tripping things up, the spinning ends of the bola accelerate as the cords wrap around an object, and when they finally hit the flesh they can break bones. Add spikes for some extra nastiness.

What Else Though?

I'd be willing to put a man armed with a long, sharp knife and years of hunting experience up against a T-Rex if he was prepared and ready to hunt it. It might take days to wear it down but eventually the man is going to get the better of it.

Thing is, humans are damned tough to stop. We have good enough senses that something the size of a T-Rex isn't going to sneak up on us. We can hear them breathing from a long way away even when they're trying to be quiet, and those things positively reek to a human nose. We can dodge quicker than they can turn, and once you know about the tail whip you're pretty much just in an endurance competition.

And just about nothing alive wins endurance competitions against humans.

If the T-Rex tries to give up the hunter will circle around and come at it again. And again. And agains. By the time the kill comes the T-Rex will be collapsed on the ground without the energy to keep going.

The moral of the story is: don't underestimate humans. We're about the most dangerous thing there is... in the long run anyway.

  • $\begingroup$ This implies that there will be a dedicated class of elite hunters protecting the gates of each city. Pursuit predation is awesome when you're out in the woods, but does not work as well when you are trying to protect a village or the arable land around it. But the exact techniques you describe can be used to draw off and fight the invaders on the hunter's terms, if the hunter is sufficiently experienced. It then becomes a show of prowess, or whatever else the culture wants to construe it as (+1) $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 16:50

Same way the Aztecs dealt with big forces intent on exterminating them if possible.

They lived on a lake with bridge approaches. This means they were limited ways they could be attacked so they could concentrate defences better.

This can be scaled up or down to even just a moat. Or a wide ditch full of sharpened stakes (big ones).

Fortify the approaches and fight them there. Or even just collapse the bridge under them or something.


Lots of good methods already here, but I saw a few things they could add to help out.

Caltrops I can't think of any creature that likes sharp things going into the bottoms of their feet. You could probably make some sizeable caltrops to make sure they penetrate deep enough. Maybe half a meter across. That would be easy enough for your people to see and avoid, but may not get noticed by the bigger Dinos. When clearing for growing fields and around fortified cities, leave a space bigger than a Dino's stride and scatter a bunch of them around. You might think about poisoning them, or maybe not. The point is that any big beasty getting into that perimeter will be gimped by sharp things in it's feet, and will turn around and avoid those kinds of spaces in the future. You would be in a good position to run down the lamed dino in a big hunt for meat. Use poison and you could then harvest a lot of stuff off of the dead dino after it goes down. Less effort and risk, but you might not want to use the tainted meat for humans. It would be perfect for poison meat traps for the big therapods though. You could use the non meat parts for all sorts of stuff like the hides and bones and sinew.

Another potential innovation: The Ballistae. You already have Bows and Arrows. The use of Dinosaur sinew probably means you could make the bow much larger and stronger. Mount it on the city wall or high point and you could shoot very large arrow to deter large dinosaurs from getting too close. Or just kill it outright. Because it's basically a cart mounted Bow it's not a hard to innovate thing.


Seeing the mass and size of dinosaurs I would say any kind of trap that would make them fall would either be lethal or make killing one a piece of cake.


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