Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
3 Sep

PrimalCon 2011 Announcement: Throw This

eagle AtlatlBobI 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.

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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

atlatl bob

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.

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You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Wow very interesting stuff.

    I loved reading about the old spears throwing as i recently travelled over to Japan to train in Kobudo which is samurai weapons training. It was an amazing expierence!

    Nice post,

    Richard

    Richard Huntley wrote on September 3rd, 2010
  2. Fav quote: I really like to play with my toys, and I will be bringing a lot of them with me.

    gilliebean wrote on September 3rd, 2010
  3. I got into atlatlery last winter. Picked up an atlatl and some darts, and have been having a great time with them since.

    One caveat. Throwing far is easy. Throwing accurately enough for a clean dart-through-Bambi’s-cardiovascular-system kill is not. I still can’t do it consistently. I’m sure if you were raised to do it from an early age it’d be easy, but I’d have starved by now if I were depending on it to survive.

    That being said, it is waaaay fun.

    fearsclave wrote on September 3rd, 2010
    • hmmm…. Bambi.

      Mike wrote on September 3rd, 2010
    • Agreed, I can throw a plumbata (late Roman dart designed to drop vertically on the target from a high throw) about 60 metres but only to within about a 3 metre circle of the target. Accuracy comes with practice. Once you get accurate with your comfortable range then start extending the range (then work on accuracy again, ad infinitum!)

      Ian wrote on September 4th, 2010
  4. Interesting post, as always. It was the Neanderthal extinction bit that really caught my eye, though. I’ve read that scientists have recently (within the last few months or so) finished mapping the Neanderthal genome and discovered that they did, in fact, cross-breed with most of early Homo Sapiens. From what I’ve read, a good number of us presently living carry Neanderthal genes within our bodies.
    I’d love to see this topic addressed in greater depth here, with Mark’s unique insight into how this has influenced human evolution.
    Hell, it’s a personal goal of mine to successfully track and hunt a wild animal without the aid of firearms. Getting there will be my own benchmark for primal gene expression, though I’m a long ways off yet.
    Till then, it’s time to resume reading The Primal Blueprint poolside, ’cause that Vitamin D ain’t gonna force its way through my walls.

    UndeadQuixote wrote on September 3rd, 2010
    • Check out a book called “Neanderthal’s Necklace” if you want to read more about our ‘cousins’. I found it to be an interesting read!

      Mike Wootini wrote on September 4th, 2010
  5. I love ancient weapons. There is a video of a small boy killing a deer with an atlatl on youtube. His father taught him to hunt, and he uses a prime example of a technique that’s been used for millenia. He keeps a tree between himself and the feeding doe while he stalks to within a few yards, leans out just enough to throw when he gets close enough. The dart point passed through the animal as was sticking out the other side, and that’s from a kid with smaller equipment.

    Kurt wrote on September 3rd, 2010
  6. Wow this is very interesting. I have never heard of the atlatl before but that picture does look like something I may have seen on the History channel. Bob, keep up the astute work. I think we would all love to see more of your work, so please stay in touch with the primal community, I certainly think this is a group of people that will appreciate your work!

    Mlkrone wrote on September 3rd, 2010
  7. Hi Mark
    Can you post a youtube of the atlatl in use?

    atkinsfan wrote on September 3rd, 2010
    • There’s a good video featuring Atlatl Bob himself here: http://military.discovery.com/videos/weapon-masters-shorts-the-atlatl.html

      Uncephalized wrote on September 3rd, 2010
    • If you watch the videos on the site he uses them and you can see how it is used.

      George Mounce wrote on September 3rd, 2010
    • I posted a link to a video yesterday but it looks like the moderator isn’t paying attention…

      There’s a good one at military(dot)discovery(dot)com(slash)videos(slash)weapon-masters-shorts-the-atlatl(dot)html

      Uncephalized wrote on September 4th, 2010
  8. @atkinsfan
    check this out:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ej3it7Ct76w

    tai haku wrote on September 3rd, 2010
  9. almost didn’t read this, but boy am I glad I did!!
    I wish I could go to Primal Con =(

    Steve L wrote on September 3rd, 2010
  10. Holy crap, I’m going to buy an atlatl and go hunting this fall. Thanks Mark!

    George Mounce wrote on September 3rd, 2010
  11. I can not wait for this. So awesome. I am actually planning on going hunting for the first time this November so if all goes well and I enjoy it then I just might hav to buy an Atlatl at Primal Con!

    Primal Toad wrote on September 4th, 2010
  12. Woot! It’s finally here!

    I’ve asked my girlfriend to comit for the full 30 days so she can better understand why I’m always so picky at the dinner table. I’ve also asked my mom to take a month off of her chronic-cardio and begin participating in the WoWs and some body weight exercises.

    I’ve also posted the challenge on the forums I participate in. There seems to be an enormous interest.

    Let the fun begin!

    Trevor wrote on September 7th, 2010
  13. No one will see this now, but the idea that we were in harmony with nature at this time is wrong. I wish I had my work from my evolution class around here, and I can’t find anything easily online. However, if you look at human migration and fossil records of large land animals, you easily see that the population of big game plummets wherever humans move.

    That said, I’m not at all saying it’s a terrible thing to use the atlatl and would love to try one myself. But be careful about conflating everything primitive with harmony with nature. We didn’t start destroying the world just yesterday.

    Todd wrote on October 7th, 2010
  14. Grew up in Africa and spent time in Australia, both places the aboriginal population excel in throwing both by hand and in Australia with a spear throwing stick very similar in principal to the atlatl also the famed boomerang Africa was hand thrown spears and clubs, also saw man out of Africa and into europe

    Brian Crawford wrote on February 11th, 2011

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