John Whittaker
Curriculum Vitae

John C Whittaker

Professor Senior Faculty
Offices, Departments, or Centers: Anthropology , Institutional Review Board ,

John Whittaker (BA Cornell U. 1975, PHD U. of Arizona 1984) has been teaching at Grinnell since 1984. He considers himself an anthropological archaeologist, which means that while he prefers working with ancient people, he considers himself free to snoop into any aspect of human life, and all people living and dead are fair game. With Kathy Kamp, he conducts the summer archaeological field school near Flagstaff, Arizona, and the prehistoric Southwest is his research heartland. They have also worked on Maya sites in Belize and maintain an interest in the Middle East. John's technical expertise is in prehistoric technologies, especially flintknapping and stone tool analysis, early agriculture, and atlatls, or spearthrowers. Flintknapping: Making and Understanding Stone Tools (1994) explains how stone tools are made and how they can be analyzed archaeologically. American Flintknappers: Stone Age Art in the Age of Computers (U. Texas 2004) is an ethnography of modern non-academic flintknappers. He teaches Introduction to Anthropology and mostly archaeological courses such as Archaeological Field Methods, North American Archaeology, and Old World Prehistory, and prefers courses where he can include class projects like processing and eating acorns, digging pits and storing corn in them, making dugout canoes with bronze age axes, and firing pottery with cow pies in his backyard. Coach Whittaker also promotes the Grinnell College Raging Cows, the world's first collegiate atlatl team, which hosts an annual spear throwing competition.


More information on John Whittaker’s newest book, “American Flintknappers,” can be found at University of Texas Press.

The World AtlAtl Association

Fall 2009, North American Archaeology Class, "Teaching with Nuts."

On a warm day late in September, my North American Archaeology class sits on the sidewalk in front of Goodnow Hall and grinds acorns. In this part of the course, we are discussing pre-agricultural foraging people and the different ways of life that were shaped by local food resources. The prehistoric Californians and their recent descendants supported relatively large and stable populations not by raising corn, but by gathering acorns. The complete article can be found in the Anthropology Spring 2010 Newsletter.

Professor Whittaker shows students how to start a fire with flint and steel in his North American Archaeology class.


  • Whittaker, John 2015 Lithic Bibliography
  • Whittaker, John. 2013. "The Aztec Atlatl in the British Museum" Submitted to Ancient Mesoamerica January 15, 2013
  • Whittaker, John. 2013. "Review: Slings and Slingstones by York and York"
  • Whittaker , John. 2013. "Atlatls and Bows: Comparing Accuracy"
  • Whittaker, John. 2012. "Lithic Scholars and the "other" Knappers." Lithic Technology. Vol. 37, No. 1 (Spring 2012), pp. 51-56.
  • Whittaker, John. 2012. "Cushing's Key Marco Atlatls: Reconstructions and Experiments" Ethnoarchaeology, Vol. 3, No. 2 (Fall 2011), pp. 139–162.
  • Whittaker, John. 2012. "Experiment Meets Recreation: Throwing Spears with the Public. The SAA Archaeological Record. 12(2) Pp. 15-17.
  • Whittaker, John. 2010. "Comment on Shea and Sisk's "Complex Projectile Technology"” In: PaleoAnthropology 2010. ISSN 1545-003. L7-L8.
  • Whittaker, John, 2010. "Novels of Cahokia" In: SAA Archaeological Record. 10(2). Pp. 34-36.
  • Whittaker, John, 2010. "Teaching with Nuts: What does making acorn porridge tell us about food and culture?"In: Grinnell Magazine Fall 2010. (43)1. Pp. 25-27.
  • Whittaker, John, Kathryn Kamp, Emek Yilmaz. Fall 2009. "Cakmak Revisted: Turkish Flintknappers Today" In: Lithic Technology. 34(2). Pp. 93-110.
  • Whittaker, John; Kathryn Kamp; et al. 2006. "A Ritual Spindle Whorl Deposit from the Late Classic Maya Site of El Pilar, Belize." Journal of Field Archaeology. 31:4, Pp. 411-423.
  • Whittaker, John; Kathryn Kamp. 2006. "Primitive Weapons and Modern Sport: Atlatl Capabilities, Learning, Gender, and Age." Plains Anthropologist. 51:198, Pp. 213-221.
  • Whittaker, John. 2005. Hunting Squirrels in College Land. Anthropology News. P.64.
  • Whittaker, John 2003. "Threshing sledges and threshing floors in Cyprus." LE TRAITEMENT DÉS RECOLTES: UN REGARD SUR LA DIVERSITÉ, DU NÉOLITHIQUE AU PRÉSENT XXIII. Antibes. Pp. 375-387.
  • Whittaker, John. 2002. "Atlatl Elbow: Anatomy and Archaeology" The Atlatl. 16(1)
  • Whittaker, John and Eric J. Kaldahl. 2001. "Where the Waste Went: A Knappers' Dump at Grasshopper Pueblo."Lithic Debitage: Context, Form, Meaning. William Andrefsky Jr. (ed.) University of Utah Press. pp. 32-60.
  • Whittaker, John and Grant McCall. 2001. "Handaxe-Hurling Hominids: An Unlikely Story."Current Anthropology. 42(4). Pp. 566-572.
  • Whittaker, John. 2001. "The Oldest British Industry continuity and obsolescence in a flintknapper's sample set'" . Antiquity. 75: 382-90.
  • Whittaker, John. 2000."The Ethnoarchaeology of Threshing in Cyprus."Near Eastern Archaeology." 63(2):62-69.
  • Whittaker, John. 2000. "Old Brains and Modern Sentiments." AAA Anthropology Newsletter. 41(7).
  • Whittaker, John; Sarah Koeman; Rachel Taylor. 1999. "Some Experiments In Petroglyph Technology." IRAC Proceedings. P. Whitehead and L.Loendorf, Editors. American Rock Art Research Association, 2000. Pp. 155-1689.
  • Whittaker, John. 1998. "The Meanings of Atlatls? Robert Hall's Archaeology of the Soul. "The Atlatl." 11(2) Pp. 2-3.
  • Whittaker, John. 1998. "Evaluating Consistency in Typology and Classification" Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory. 5(2) Pp. 129-164.
  • Whittaker, John. 1997. "Red Power Finds Creationism." In: Skeptical Inquirer. January/February. 1997. Pp. 47-50.
  • Whittaker, John. 1997. "Here Come the Anthros: What Good is An Archaeologist?" In: Anthropology Matters: Essays in Honor of Ralph A. Luebben. Jonathan G. Andelson (ed.). Grinnell College. Pp. 101-108.
  • Whittaker, John. "Knapping Building Flints in Norfolk."Lithic Technology. 26(1) Pp. 71-80.
  • Whittaker, John and Anthony D. Romano. 1996. "Some Prehistoric Copper Flaking Tools in Minnesota."The Wisconsin Archeologist. 77(1):3-10.
  • Whittaker, John. 1996. "Reproducing a Bronze Age dagger from the Thames: statements and questions."London Archaeologist. 8(2):51-54.
  • Whittaker, John. 1996. "Athkiajas: A Cypriot Flintknapper and the Threshing Sledge Industry." Lithic Technology 21(2). Pp. 108-120.
  • Whittaker, John. 1992. "Hard Times at Lizard Man." Archaeology July/August, 1992.. Pp. 56-58.
  • Whittaker, John. 1992. The Curse of the Runestone: Deathless Hoaxes. Skeptical Inquirer (17)Pp.57-63.

Education and Degrees

B.A. (1975) Cornell University, cum laude in Anthropology M.A. (1979) University of Arizona, Anthropology PhD. (1984) University of Arizona, Anthropology

We use cookies to enable essential services and functionality on our site, enhance your user experience, provide better service through personalized content, collect data on how visitors interact with our site, and enable advertising services.

To accept the use of cookies and continue on to the site, click "I Agree." For more information about our use of cookies and how to opt out, please refer to our website privacy policy.