John Whittaker, Professor


John Whittaker (BA Cornell U. 1975, PHD U. of Arizona 1984) has been teaching at Grinnell since 1984. He considers himself an anthropological archaeologist, which means that while he prefers working with ancient people, he considers himself free to snoop into any aspect of human life, and all people living and dead are fair game. With Kathy Kamp, he conducts the summer archaeological field school near Flagstaff, Arizona, and the prehistoric Southwest is his research heartland. They have also worked on Maya sites in Belize and maintain an interest in the Middle East. John's technical expertise is in prehistoric technologies, especially flintknapping and stone tool analysis, early agriculture, and atlatls, or spearthrowers. Flintknapping: Making and Understanding Stone Tools (1994) explains how stone tools are made and how they can be analyzed archaeologically. American Flintknappers: Stone Age Art in eh Age of Computers (U. Texas 2004) is an ethnography of modern non-academic flintknappers. He teaches Introduction to Anthropology and mostly archaeological courses such as Archaeological Field Methods, North American Archaeology, and Old World Prehistory, and prefers courses where he can include class projects like processing and eating acorns, digging pits and storing corn in them, making dugout canoes with bronze age axes, and firing pottery with cow pies in his backyard. Coach Whittaker also promotes the Grinnell College Raging Cows, the world's first collegiate atlatl team, which hosts an annual spear throwing competition.


Carl Drexler learns how to use a fire drill in North American Prehistory.

Lara Gaasland-Tatro samples toasted acorn weevil grubs.



Gary Oppenheim aims at the Raging Cow target, Spring 2001.



Weapon Trials: The Atlatl and Experiments in Hunting Technology

Des Moines Register "Raging Cow" Atlatl competition article

Coaching the Atlatl Article - John Whittaker

Atlatl Bibliography - 5/2008 - John Whittaker

Professor Whittaker's Curriculum Vita

Archaeology Field Methods Syllabus- Spring 2006

Tutorial: Primitive Skills in the Modern World - Fall 2003


Whittaker, John; Kathryn Kamp; et al. 2006. A Ritual Spindle Whorl Deposit from the Late Classic Maya Site of El Pilar, Belize. In: Journal of Field Archaeology. 31:4, Pp. 411-423.

World Atlatl Association