I am very pleased to announce that Bob Perkins will be leading a breakout session at PrimalCon 2011. Atlatl Bob is the world authority on the atlatl and dart, so register today (only 25 of 100 spots remaining) to ensure your spot at this unique, hands-on lecture.
Bob has graciously written the following guest post for Mark’s Daily Apple readers. Read on to learn why throwing was essential to human survival and how the atlatl was an important hunter-gatherer weapon. And if you aren’t familiar with Atlatl Bob check his impressive bio below and then leave him a comment in the boards.
The atlatl and dart is the first true weapons system developed by humans. In fact, comparatively speaking, the bow and arrow is a recent development in projectile technology. Invented and introduced perhaps 45,000 years ago, it took the human race from more of a scavenging, opportunistic, hunter-gatherer subsistence strategy to top-of-the-food-chain big-game hunter. The atlatl and dart has been used as the primary big-game procurement system longer than any other weapons system ever developed by humans. When humans used the atlatl we were in balance with nature. We lived in small, extended-family, hunter-gatherer groups, never taking more from the environment than what the environment could naturally replace, the top predator on the planet… and we paid no taxes! For nearly 30 years I’ve studied the physics and mechanics of the atlatl and dart, and have explained in great detail how this deceptively complex system functions. I’ve also established the cultural impact of the atlatl’s introduction upon the subsistence strategy of Homo sapiens and have influenced early hominid evolutionary thought on natural selection.
My most recent research into human evolution manifests throwing behavior as a primary operator upon natural selection. The subsistence strategy of early hominids was, in part, cooperative scavenging. They were sort of like road-kill warriors: highly organized and mobile, with good communications and… artillery. They could stand off at a distance from a dead animal and throw sticks and stones at competing carrion eaters, or even the predator that made the kill, and drive them away. Then they simply walked over and picked up their prize and took it away to a safer place to share and consume. Life was not all that great, the early hominids were prey themselves, but they had a good strategy and over the millennia natural selection perfected their aim. For millions of years, throwing behavior acted upon natural selection from the Australopithecines, to Homo habilis, Homo erectus, and so on to us, Homo sapiens. I’ve also strongly demonstrated that the lack of throwing ability is what took Neanderthal out of the line-up, leading to their extinction. What really seems to have made the difference for us, why we succeeded, is our ability to throw stuff well and accurately. A fine line considering all paths that could have been, and were, taken down evolution’s roads. The atlatl and dart is the supreme expression of our natural ability to throw and kill at a distance. It is the natural weapon of the human predator. It is what put us at the top of the food chain. And it is, for good or bad, what launched us on the path that has led us to where we are today.
The atlatl is often, and mistakenly, described as a spear thrower. The darts that the atlatl launches are long like a spear but are more like an arrow on steroids. The atlatl, like the bow, is a flexible-shaft accelerator. In fact, the technology of the bow and arrow system is directly descended from the atlatl, and just a progression, an evolution of atlatl and dart technology… but we will leave the details of that for for PrimalCon. The mechanics of the atlatl and dart system are capable of launching a dart at 120 to 140 feet per second. That’s around 80 miles per hour. Just about anyone, young or old, can learn to throw a five and a half foot dart more than 100 yards in just a minute. At PrimalCon everyone will get the chance to learn about the atlatl and throw several darts down-range on the beach. I will be available at other times for small group discussions and, time permitting, individual and small group instruction on the finer points of atlatl throwing. I really like to play with my toys, and I will be bringing a lot of them with me. The atlatls and darts you will be using at PrimalCon are the production line model called the Warrior, manufactured by my company, BPS Engineering. The warrior atlatl is a modern replica of a type found in the Great Basin of the Southwest United States, dating to 6,000 years before the present and considered to be the apex of the technology. I also promise to bring some examples of beautiful authentic replications for show and sale. See you at PrimalCon!
Atlatl Bob’s Bio
Bob Perkins lives in a small town in Southwestern Montana. After service in the Marines, Bob began his interest in the atlatl and dart weapons system while studying engineering at Montana State University in the early 1980s
Over the years, Atlat Bob has studied, researched, lectured, and consulted at numerous museums and universities across the United States and Canada. His research has been cited in scholarly papers, journals, books, and publications across the planet. His authentic replications are displayed in the finest museums and private collections throughout the world. He has made appearances on the History, Discovery, and National Geographic Channels, and has had feature stories about him in Sports Illustrated, Field and Stream, Outside, and many other national magazines. Atlatl Bob is a representative of the Society of Primitive Technology who has taught the art and science of authentic atlatl and dart reproduction and coached people in the technique of atlatl throwing for more than 20 years at the most prestigious outdoor schools and primitive skills conferences in North America.