Centuries-Old Technology Retooled for New Generation
Toolmaking technology from 20,000 years ago, revived for the modern-day “hunter-gatherers” in D. Robert Cooley’s Introduction to Cultural Anthropology class at Penn College, was put to the test on the Madigan Library lawn Tuesday afternoon. The atlatl, which uses the same leverage principle as tennis ball-throwers familiar to many dog owners, liberated early humans from the need to hunt with handheld spears in dangerously close contact with prey. The hands-on exercise is an offshoot of an annual class trip to the Meadowcroft Rockshelter in southwestern Pennsylvania, the oldest site of human habitation on the continent. “Many of the recreators there are pleased to meet students who are interested in this primitive type of technology,” said Cooley, an assistant professor of anthropology/environmental science in the college’s School of Integrated Studies. “And the students enjoy in-depth interaction with people studying Native American history.” Students made their own atlatls for the class, then took turns using them to launch feathered darts toward archery targets in outdoor “laboratory” experiments.