June 27, 2019

This Is the Anthropology Class You Wish You Could Have Taken

Prof. Schindler shoots a stone-tipped arrow.
(Photo: Washington College)
Anthropology professor Bill Schinldler starts with students like these:

The skills prehistoric peoples depended on seem exotic to today’s college students, who Schindler says arrive on campus each year with less and less of the sort of practical experience that he emphasizes in his class. He tells of the time he asked some students to crack eggs and separate the yolks from the whites. He returned to the kitchen 10 minutes later to find that not a single egg had been cracked. “I asked them if the problem was that nobody had ever told them how to separate the yolk from the whites, and received blank stares in return,” he recalled. “After a minute of silence, one of them said, ‘I’ve never cracked an egg.’ I was floored—how do you even make it to 19 without cracking an egg?

But by the time he has had them for a while:

On the last day of the course, Schindler and his class feasted on stew made from the deer they had butchered, out of bowls they had fired from local river clay. As they ate, some of the students gave presentations about their efforts to do as early humans had done. These attempts had not all been successful: Stone axes fell off the handles they were hafted to, wood in a charcoal kiln turned mostly to ash instead of charcoal. “It wasn’t a failure at all,” Schindler reassured the distressed charcoal maker, “because now you know what you would do differently.” 

Read the whole thing — "Professor Caveman: Why Bill Schindler is teaching college students to live like early humans."


Unknown said...

That would have been a cool class. I remember reading a survival "guide" when I was a kid that said,"If you're going to start a fire by rubbing two sticks together one of them should be a match."

Meg said...

Love it. Back when Vas was a middle schooler we grabbed a book called Caveman Chemistry. Basically a practical chemistry class for liberal arts students. Fire bows, chipped arrowheads out of beer bottle bottoms, pottery to.make our own mini retorts, fired in an open fire, where we learned the melting point of aluminum from my attempts at open kiln temperature. Used it to smelt bronze and make glass. Dyes, spinning, cordage. I don't worry about his being able to survive post society.

Darrell said...

Bringing back Home Ec classes for males and females would do a lot to solve the problem.

Chas S. Clifton said...


My mother, who was a home ec teacher for a few years, would have agreed with you.

She taught at Poudre HS in Fort Collins, and one of her accomplishments was starting a boys' home ec class. A bunch of the "jocks" signed up, probably thinking it was an easy class, but she managed to teach some survival-cooking skills to them and was happy about the outcome.