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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 - 2009 - 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, Emek Yilmaz. Fall 2009. "Cakmak Revisted: Turkish Flintknappers Today" In: Lithic Technology. (ISSN 0197-7261) 34(2). Pp. 93-110.

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.

Whittaker, John 2003. "Threshing sledges and threshing floors in Cyprus." In: LE TRAITEMENT DÉS RECOLTES: UN REGARD SUR LA DIVERSITÉ, DU NÉOLITHIQUE AU PRÉSENT XXIII. Antibes. Pp. 375-387.

Whittaker, John and Grant McCall. 2001. "Handaxe-Hurling Hominids: An Unlikely Story." In: Current Anthropology. 42(4). Pp. 566-572.

Whittaker, John and Eric J. Kaldahl. 2001. "Where the Waste Went: A Knappers' Dump at Grasshopper Pueblo." In: Lithic Debitage: Context, From, Meaning. William Andrefsky Jr. (ed.) University of Utah Press. pp. 32-60.

Whittaker, John. 2001. "The Oldest British Industry'" continuity and obsolescence in a flintknapper's sample set." In: Antiquity. 75 (2001): 382-90.

Whittaker, John. "Knapping Building Flints in Norfolk." In: Lithic Technology. 26(1) Pp. 71-80.

Whittaker, John. 2000."The Ethnoarchaeology of Threshing in Cyprus." In: Near Eastern Archaeology." 63(2):62-69.

Whittaker, John. 2000. "Old Brains and Modern Sentiments." In: AAA Anthropology Newsletter. 41(7).

Whittaker, John; Sarah Koeman; Rachel Taylor. 1999. "Some Experiments In Petroglyph Technology." In: IRAC Proceedings. P. Whitehead and L.Loendorf, Editors. American Rock Art Research Association, 2000. Pp. 155-1689.

Whittaker, John. 1997. "Red Power Finds Creationism." In: Skeptical Inquirer. January/February. Pp. 47-50.

Whittaker, John. 1997. "Here Come the Anthros: What Good is An Archaeologist?" In: Anthropology Matters: Essays in Honor of Ralph A. Luebben. Jonathan G. Andelson '70 (ed.). Grinnell College. Pp. 101-108.

Whittaker, John and Anthony D. Romano. 1996. "Some Prehistoric Copper Flaking Tools in Minnesota." In: The Wisconsin Archeologist. 77(1):3-10.

Whittaker, John. 1996. "Reproducing a Bronze Age dagger from the Thames: statements and questions." In: London Archaeologist. 8(2):51-54.

Whittaker, John. 1996. "Athkiajas: A Cypriot Flintknapper and the Threshing Sledge Industry." In: Lithic Technology 21(2). Pp. 108-120.

Whittaker, John. 1992. "Hard Times at Lizard Man." In: Archaeology July/August. Pp. 56-58.

Whittaker, John. 1992. The Curse of the Runestone: Deathless Hoaxes. In: Skeptical Inquirer (17)Pp.57-63.

World Atlatl Association