Ian Uland was clearly excited as he listened intently to Kathryn Ore’s instructions on how to use an atlatl.
“It’s cool. I like it,” the fourth-grader from Jefferson School said after he barely missed his mark. “It’s just hard trying to throw.”
An atlatl is a tool used to fling a long arrow or spear to achieve greater velocity and distance than by hand.
This was just one of seven stations he learned about advancements made by prehistoric Montanans on his tour around the Historical Society and Capitol grounds.
Thursday was the 20th annual Archaeology Day, presented by the Historical Society.
“(The students) learn a lot of history, get a hands on experience,” said Mr. Rich Wirak, a fourth-grade teacher at Jefferson School. “They usually take back a new appreciation for studying Montana’s past. And it’s great to build on this enthusiasm back in the classroom.”
Each of the seven stations, including hide tanning, stone boiling, tool identification and tipi archeology, had an emphasis of technological changes and advancements.
The tipi was especially nice because it provided a secure and mobile shelter. The atlatl was created to hunt prey and defend from dangerous predators before the advent of the bow and arrow. Stone boiling could heat up water inside a bowl made of hide without burning it.
“The purpose of this is not only to teach how the prehistoric people live in Montana but also give them a greater respect for all of the people of Montana,” said Tom Cook, public information officer of the Historical Society.
The workshops allowed students an opportunity to test weaponry with their own hands, see artifacts with their own eyes, and really get to grasp what a technological advancement some of these tools really were.
“This is a great workshop. We expect to see more 500 kids over the course of the day. Most of the kids were from Helena,” Cook said. “But they came from as far away as White Sulphur Springs.”