Centuries-Old Technology Retooled for New Generation

Published 10.09.2012

Student News
School of Sciences, Humanities & Visual Communications News

Jonathan E. Harris, a computer aided product design major from Danville, takes steady aim.Brent K. Hey, of Chambersburg, majoring in residential construction technology and management: building construction technology concentration, intently prepares.Faculty member Rob Cooley demonstrates winning form – "like throwing a potato off the end of a fork" – for William P. Burrows Jr., an accounting student from Williamsport.Familiarity bred accuracy as students grew more accustomed to the simple, yet effective extension of their wrists and arms.Her atlatl wrapped in hot-pink duct tape, Chloe F. Marino – a general studies major from Cogan Station – steps up to the firing line.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.