Human Survival, Primitive Technologies, The Great Human Race

Recently on my way to the library, I was delighted and fascinated to hear my Alma Mater Washington College mentioned during NPR’s radio show Here and Now. It’s a small school, so I always stop in my tracks (but not always literally) when I hear the town or the college mentioned.

On this day, the radio host was introducing professor Dr. Bill Schindler, Chair of the Anthology department at Washington College in Chestertown, MD. He was explaining how important it is for young people today to get back in touch with how we have survived on this Earth as humans, how our ancestors survived, and why his students thrive. His 10-minute segment was fascinating. I was curious and impressed that this person is a professor at my college. I bet his classes are impossible to get into!

From the Washington College website bio:

Trained by some of the leading archaeologists, experimental archaeologists and primitive technologists in the world, Dr. Schindler now shares his knowledge and skills with his Washington College students with a teaching philosophy he calls “sole authorship.” It means starting at the earliest stage of any process they are studying, and following it through to the end product. For example, to learn about prehistoric leather clothing, they would butcher and skin the deer, flesh and de-hair the hide, brain-tan the deerskin, research different forms of buckskin clothing, tailor clothing using traditional methods, wear the clothing and then … have an informed discussion about it. (He focused on sole authorship when he delivered the keynote address at the world’s largest experimental archaeology conference in Dublin, Ireland, in January of 2015.)

I can’t say exactly how I would have felt butchering and skinning a deer as part of a college course (especially since I was a language major), but I can assure you that it would have been an experience I wouldn’t have forgotten. And when I read books about an almost-upon-us apocalypse (as I seem to do with some frequency and which keep me up at night: Station Eleven, World Made By Hand), I think such an experience would have helped me feel more prepared than I currently do. And I could have slept easier with the comforting thought if the apocalypse comes, at least I can kill a deer, skin it, and be clothed.

Perhaps you’ve heard of Schindler through another context. He also co-hosted the first season of National Geographic’s show The Great Human Race with Survival expert Cat Bigney, which aired in spring 2016.

If learning about how our ancestors survived (and eventually led us to the time and place where you can watch clips of how our ancestors survived on a piece of technology that you hold in the palm of your hand), check out the radio show, watch some clips of the Great Human Race, or find out how to watch complete episodes. (Or if you’re looking for less of a commitment, you could follow Dr. Schindler on Twitter.)

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