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What About Bob?

Photo of Bob 'Atlatl Bob' Perkins

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.

Paleoglyph Dancer 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!

Interview with Atlatl Bob

Find out more about how Atlatl Bob got started from this video clip by Jeremy Roberts, or watch the 5 minute documentary from 2006.

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.

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.

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.

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.