Angelo Robledo: UNLV Anthropology Student and Atlatl Expert and Educator
Could you please tell us about yourself? What are some of your interests?
I was born and raised in Las Vegas and have been interested in archaeology and anthropology since I was in elementary school. I was introduced to atlatls in fourth grade and have been somewhat obsessed with them ever since, sparking an interest in the subdiscipline of experimental archaeology. Outside of archaeology, I have a passion for outdoors and spend a lot of free time rock climbing, camping, and hiking all over the southwest. I also am interested in music history, and utilized the podcast recording studios at UNLV to create a podcast about the history of sampling in music called Sample Excavator.
Why did you choose to major in Anthropology at UNLV? What have been some of the highlights of your UNLV Anthropology experience?
Due to my interest in anthropology from a young age, there was never a question as to what I would major in at UNLV. The various opportunities to participate in archaeological excavations as an undergraduate student cemented that decision and led to some of the biggest highlights of my UNLV career, such as traveling to Belize to participate in the excavations at Caracol with Drs. Arlen and Diane Chase. Mesoamerica has always been a part of the world I was particularly interested in due to their affiliation with atlatl use, and the opportunity to excavate such an impressive and important site is an experience I will never forget.
You are on the Board of Directors for the World Atlatl Association and you were a featured guest on the @ologies Podcast discussing atlatls and experimental archaeologyYou have also shared your atlatl expertise in other ways, like workshops offered with the Las Vegas Natural History Museum. What is an atlatl? How did you get into atlatlling? And what is the best thing about atlatls?
An atlatl is a spear throwing tool about 60cm in length that uses leverage to propel a thin spear or dart further than it could be thrown by hand. The oldest atlatl ever excavated, which was found in France, has been dated to 17,500 BCE, however bio-archaeological evidence suggests that atlatl use may go back as far as 30,000 BCE. I first learned about atlatls in elementary school, but did not make or throw one myself until I was 13 years old. I joined the World Atlatl Association in high school and started entering atlatl throwing competitions. In 2018 I was elected to the Board of Directors for the World Atlatl Association, a position I still hold today.
Over the past 5 years I have conducted dozens of atlatl throwing workshops and events in the Las Vegas area. I have a passion for education and teaching, and realized quickly that the hands-on nature of experimental archaeology makes it a phenomenal tool for teaching general concepts of archaeology and anthropology to the public, especially K-12 school children. I have partnered with multiple schools looking to supplement their student's world history curriculum, and have taught students as young as 7 years old how to throw atlatls, twist their own cordage, or even make coil pots. Atlatls have a particularly rich history in Nevada, with sites like Lovelock Cave and Atlatl Rock scattered across the desert where multiple atlatl artifacts and petroglyphs have been found. This gives these workshops extra significance for the students, allowing them to tangibly interact with the history of their home.
Appearing on the Ologies podcast gave me the opportunity to speak passionately about atlatls to an audience of hundreds of thousands of listeners all around the world, and introduce even more people to this aspect of history that they probably never heard of before. The COVID-19 pandemic has been both a blessing and a curse for my atlatl endeavors. While I have not been able to conduct nearly as many in-person workshops as I have in previous years, the advent of online classroom technology like Zoom pushed me to adapt and create digital presentations that I can give virtually to classrooms all across the country, working with teachers to ensure that I am enriching each class's specific curriculum as much as possible. These teaching and education opportunities are by far the most rewarding and exciting aspect of my atlatl 'career.'
You'll be graduating soon from UNLV. What do you hope to do after graduation? What advice do you have for your fellow students to get the most from their UNLV Anthropology experience?
After graduation I will be taking a year off before applying for grad school. In that off year I plan on working full time at a K-12 schools I've done workshops with in the past, working on my teaching abilities as a substitute teacher and developing new ways to incorporate hands-on archaeology projects into the social studies curriculum for multiple grade levels. I will of course continue to host and compete in atlatl competitions, and host atlatl events at other schools and museums in Las Vegas. I plan on eventually going to grad school for an MSc in Experimental Archaeology before pursuing a career in science/museum education.
For other students pursuing their BA in Anthropology, I would recommend getting involved. Whether it's joining the UNLV Anthropology Society, participating in research in one of the many labs on campus, or participating in archaeological excavations, getting involved is the best way to both find your passion within anthropology and get the most out of your undergraduate experience.