While in class, students learned about the tools and diets of our hominin ancestors such as Neanderthals and early Anatomically Modern humans. They were able to learn through looking at and touching casts of stone tool axes, scrapers, spear points, and fossil bones. They also worked in groups to assess the evidence for the wide range of diets our ancestors ate and how they acquired that food. And, while they learned a great deal from this, they were missing something. They were missing a true appreciation for how much skill it took for our ancestors to hunt their food with relatively simplistic, yet effective technology.
To paint a more complete picture of our evolutionary past, Dr. Cara Ocobock planned a “hunting trip” for her students, which was made possible with funds generously provided by Dean Mustillo and throwing field space provided by Claire VeNard and Victor Saavedra from Athletics. Ocobock was able to acquire shepherd slings and atlatls (pronounced at-lat-l) with darts as well as construct a prey animal. While, yes, a highly modified unicorn lawn decoration may not be the most accurate representation of a woolly rhinoceros, it valiantly served as a target and was oddly appropriate given the below freezing temperatures students endured during this exercise.
Each student from class was able to try throwing a dart with the atlatl and a tennis ball with a sling. They quickly learned just how difficult it is and just how much skill it takes to become accurate and precise with these Stone Age weapons - as during the hour of throwing, only one student managed to hit the “woolly rhino” with an atlatl dart. Despite the steep learning curve with these hunting implements, students improved with practice, enjoyed the experiential learning opportunity, and declared the “hunt” a rousing success! Everyone came away from this activity with a deeper respect for ancestors, and possibly two new hobbies!