Modern popular culture is seeing a revival of interest in primitive
skills: traditional technologies such as flintknapping, archery,
weaving and basketry, fire-making, and tracking. We will combine
practical experience to learn a couple of simple pre-industrial
technologies with reading and writing to explore questions raised
by the term “primitive skills.” What is our notion of primitive,
and why does “the primitive” appeal to people today? What is skill?
How are skills learned and differently valued in the context of
One purpose of the tutorial is of course to help you learn skills:
the scholarly skills of finding information, reading critically,
writing clearly, and discussing logically. As much as possible,
class sessions will focus on discussion of readings, activities,
and the written assignments rather than lecture. Accordingly, it
is your responsibility to come to class, and to come prepared: do
assigned reading and writing before the class for which it is listed,
think about it, and arrive with ideas to talk about.
Grading will be based on six short written assignments, an oral
presentation, and class participation.
Seton, Earnest Thompson
1962 (1903) Two Little Savages. New York:
Dover Publications Inc.
Blankenship, Bart, and Robin Blankenship
1996 Earth Knack: Stone Age Skills for the 21st Century.
1982 Survival of the Bark Canoe. New York:
1 Sunday 8/24
Who are we, what are we doing?
Sign up for advising
Assign I: Essay on an artifact
(Monday 8/25 and Tues 8/26)
Individual advising meetings
Introduction to Atlatls)
Tuesday - communal dinner 5:30 at 1517 Elm St
What is skill? What is primitive? How archaeologists
look at technology.
Discuss beginning of Blankenship, Chadwick article
DUE: Assignment I
READ: begin Blankenship
READ: Chadwick, John 1987 Linear B and Related Scripts.
Press. (Chapter 7: The Phaistos Disk).
2 Tues 9/2
Technology and meaning.
Assignment I returned for rewrite.
READ: Allen, Frederick
1995 Woolly Mammoth. Invention and Technology
READ: Wohleber, Curt 2003 Duct Tape. Invention and
READ: Gibson, Thomas D. 1996 Capping the Bottle. Invention
and Technology 11(4): 64.
READ: Matthei, Harry 1997 The Tin Garage. Invention
and Technology 13(1): 64.
DUE: Assignment I rewritten
Film: Eskimo or other
READ: Erikson, Kai 1989 On Sociological Prose. Yale
READ: “Oops, About Writing an Effective Letter to
3 Tues 9/9
Technology and Skill: Discuss film.
Discuss Assignment I.
READ: Whittaker, John
2002 Coaching the Atlatl: How a Spearthrower Throws
a Spear. GrinnellCollege
web page. URL
Atlatl Practice (meet at the AtlatlRange)
FRIDAY 12 leave for Cahokia
after classes ()
SATURDAY 13 atlatl event at Cahokia
SUNDAY 14 return from Cahokia
4 Tues 9/16
Discuss Cahokia trip
Academic Honesty exercises
Handout on citations
Assign II: The anthropological witness: description
and interpretation of events
READ: Johnson, Nicholas 2002 Facing the Raging Cow.
Scarlet and Black, May 3, 2002: 12.
READ: Geni, Joe 2002 Men’s Tennis Moves on to MWC
Tourney. Scarlet and Black, May
3, 2002: 11.
READ: Gmelch, George 1971 Baseball Magic. In Conformity
and Conflict. James Spradley and David
MacCurdy eds. Pp. 346-352. Boston:
Little, Brown, and Company.
Thurs 9/18 (JW leave for Ft O after class)
Finish Academic Honesty
Discuss Johnson, Geni articles
5 Tues 9/23
Finish and discuss Blankenship (select some skill to
DUE: Assignment II
Discuss Assignment II.
READ: Blankenship pp12-31
READ: Baugh, Dick 1999 The Miracle of Fire by Friction.
In Primitive Technology: A
Book of Earth Skills. David Wescott, ed. Pp. 32-33. Salt
Gibbs Smith Publisher.
READ: Warren, Robert Penn 1989 On Reading Fiction.
In New and Selected Essays.
New York: Random House.
READ: Begin Seton, Two Little Savages
6 Tues 9/30
Skill, technology, and symbolism – discuss symbols
Jack. 1953 To Build a Fire. In Best Short Stories of Jack
Garden City: Garden City Books.
Discuss Two Little Savages
Assign III: Literary analysis, a character in Two Little
7 Tues 10/7
DUE: Assignment III due
Finish discussion of Two Little Savages
Field Trip: Nettle harvest and other gathering
8 Tues 10/14
Discuss Assignment III
READ: Blankenship 32-65
READ: Blankenship pp. 126-139
READ: Whittaker, J. n.d. Why My Office Stinks. Unpublished
FALL BREAK 10/18-10/26
9 Tues 10/28
LIBRARY: Intro to web and related resources with Jenn
IV: Article abstracts
READ: Heizer, Robert F. 1970 The Anthropology of
Prehistoric Great Basin
Human Coprolites. In Science in Archaeology, 3rd edition. D.Brothwell
and E.Higgs eds. pp. 244‑250.
New York: Praeger
READ: Madsen, David 1989 A Grasshopper in Every Pot.
Natural History 7():22‑24.
DUE: Assignment IV
Discuss Madsen, Heizer articles, abstracts, food
10 Tues 11/4
READ: Blankenship 66-89
READ: Whittaker, J. Flintknapping: Making and Understanding
Stone Tools. Austin:
University of Texas
Press. (Pages 127-166)
11 Tues 11/11
Discuss knapping, learning
READ: Assign V: Review a Web Site
DUE: Assignment V
Discuss webs, internets, society
12 Tues 11/18
Discuss Assignment V
READ: McPhee, Survival of the Bark Canoe, pp.1-42
Assign VI: Learn, demonstrate, and describe a primitive