Atlatl Bob on Elk Hill - Belview, Nebraska. His great grandparents outfitted here in 1866 to cross the plains to Montana Territory by way of the Oregon Trail then on to the Bozeman Trail. Making their way to the rich placer mines of Virginia City. Ellen Fletcher, Bob's great grandmother, walked up this hill almost daily to view the comings and goings on the river and in town.
(William Robert Perkins, 1956 - )
"Atlatl" Bob Perkins was born on May 3, 1956 in Astoria, Oregon. The son of a Coast Guard commander, Bob spent his youth in various parts of the United States. At the age of six, Bob proclaimed to his mother that he desired to be an orchestra conductor. However, an incident occurred leaving the family piano a smoldering heap of ashes in the corner of the living room, causing an outright ban on musical instruments in the Perkins' household. Bob claimed no involvement.
With music no longer a viable option, Bob turned to his local library as a source of succor during trying times. He slowly became obsessed with the works of Nathaniel Hawthorne and began to roam the streets of Pensacola, Florida garbed as his favorite Hawthorne character, Young Goodman Brown. After suggesting that his high school do a musical production of the classic tale of temptation in the face of piety, Bob was cast in the lead role. Tragically, following a tumultuous response on opening night, the school auditorium was reduced to cinders in a four-alarm fire. Bob claimed no involvement.
With intensive study in mathematics, Bob Perkins graduated high school in three years and quickly enlisted in the Marine Corps. Although puzzled by his first assignment, teaching recruits impressionist art, he worked diligently with the troops until their work with greens and blues was on par with the masters. His career was progressing brilliantly when, suddenly, an ugly incident involving the trade of rifles for party favors was uncovered by a local reporter. Unfairly, Bob was implicated and transferred to a different a unit. He completed his tour of duty in 1979.
With almost no job opportunities available due to a stagnant economy, Bob decided to enroll at Montana State University. His love of math and science brought him to the College of Engineering. On a whim, he registered for an anthropology course, and his life was changed. Here, in the humble classrooms, of a small, western university, Bob was introduced to the atlatl, also known as a spear thrower. After studying its structure and enigmatic components, Bob quickly began his research of the ancient weapon system. Not settling for the traditional explanation of the rock affixed to the back of the atlatl, which was at that time assumed to be ceremonial, Bob used the weapons of the Engineer, math and physics to discern the rock's purpose. Bob Perkins discovered that the attached stone made the atlatl flex. Combine this with a "spear" that flexes also, and the projectile can travel over a hundred yards. This discovery was unprecedented; the atlatl was not designed to throw a rigid spear, but a flexible dart!
After his discovery, Bob put his new atlatl into use at various competitions across the nation. Although at first people questioned Bob's theory, the results were too overwhelming to ignore. This was the way the atlatl worked, and soon the flexible dart was in wide use amongst sportsmen and archeology enthusiasts. Bob went on to study at the Smithsonian Institute and the Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois. In recent years, he has completed research for The Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana and become a traveling lecturer on the atlatl. He replicates and sells atatl and dart systems and supports World Atlatl Magazine. Bob Perkins' dynamic personality and legendary charm have made him an almost mythical figure in the world of primitive technology. Bob Perkins, described by ladies around the world as a Casanova for the nineties, is a spokesman for pre-history. As Bob would say, he's at the top of the food chain.
Atlatl Bob on location in Colorado in June 2011.
Atlatl Bob in the Movies
These are some of Atlatl Bob's video, film, and television credits, either as a research or reference credit, or for producing replica artifacts for a production.
- Atlatl, Weapon Masters, 2008
- The Aztecs: Blood and Sacrifice, Digging for the Truth, April 16, 2007
- Atlatl, Jeremy Roberts, 2006
Magazine Articles Covering Atlatl Bob and his Atlatls
Here are a few of the magazine, newspaper, blog, and similar articles about Atlatl Bob, or where Atlatl Bob was a reference.
- Poking into atlatl hunting can have risks, Joe Nickell, Missoulian, March 3, 2011
- Bring back the spear in Montana, The Daily Mail, February 13, 2011
- In defense of the spear, Atlatl Bob offers governor a demonstration, Daniel Person, The Bozeman Daily Chronicle, February 11, 2011
- Credit The Atlatl For Our Perch Atop The Food Chain, Shannon Graham, Arrowheadology, May 29, 2009
- The Atlatl & Bannerstone, Todd Dyer, 2007
- Ancient Spear Weapon OK'd For Deer Hunt in Pennsylvania, Brian Handwerk, National Geographic News, January 24, 2006
- Throwing Sticks of the Stone Age, John J. Miller, The Wall Street Journal, January 18, 2006
- The Atlatl and Dart: An Ancient Hunting Weapon, Thomas J. Elpel, 2006
- Stone Age Weapon Makes a Comeback, Mark Scolforo, Associated Press, November 19, 2005
- Pa. May Let Hunters Use Prehistoric Weapon, New York Times, November 13, 2005
- History of the Atlatl, Ingenium: Ingenious Machines, 2002
- Atlatl, New Scientist Magazine, May 15, 1999
- Bow & Arrow Hunting Magazine, May 1999
- What About Atlatl Bob? He's named for a Stone Age weapon. He may be nuts as a bunny. But sometimes it's nice to have a Neanderthal at your side, Tim Cahill, Outside Magazine, December 1998
- Perfecting Stone Age Technology, The Atlatl: A Great Leap Backward, Tim Cahill, American Country, July 1997
- New York Times Magazine, August 11, 1996
- Equipage: Watch Your Backside, Fido... But fear for your life, O woolly mammoth, Michael Finkel, Outside, March 1996
- ATLATL Renaissance, Jim Merritt, Field & Stream, September 1993
- Science & Children, October 1993
- Bulletin of Primitive Technology, 1992
- Black Belt, August 1990
- At Long Last, An Atlatl of Your Very Own, Sports Illustrated, November 14, 1988
William R. "Atlatl Bob" Perkins' Papers
Here is a partial listing of Atlatl Bob's published papers and articles on atlatls and other archaeological topics.
- Throw This Article, William R. Perkins, 2007
- Archeological, Experimental, and Mathematical Evidence Supporting the Use of the Atlatl as a Primary Procurement Weapon of Prehistoric America, William R. Perkins, 2000
- Effects of Stone Projectile Points as a Mass Within the Atlatl and Dart Mechanical System and its Relationship to the Bow and Arrow, William R. Perkins, 2000
- Atlatl and Dart Mechanics, William R. Perkins, 1996
- Effects of Stone Projectile Points as Mass in the Atlatl and Dart System, William R. Perkins, 1994
- Atlatl Weights: Function and Classification, William R. Perkins, 1993
- Stealth Technology 1992 BC, William R. Perkins, 1992
- Old and New World Atlatls: A Study of Similarities in Form and Function Centering on the Nazca Culture of South American and Tribes of Papua, New Guinea, Willliam R. Perkins, 1990
- The Weighted Atlatl and Dart: A Deceptively Complicated Mechanical System, William R. Perkins and Paul Leininger, 1989