Schindler is changing students’ lives one stone tool at a time. He’s helping reshape a lot of people’s understanding of what it means to be human.
People sometimes call Schindler, "Professor Caveman," but he doesn’t like the nickname.
It's too backward looking, because Schindler is trying to help his students understand how we became the humans we are now -- and where we might be going.
He teaches students about the primitive technology and survival skills of our earliest ancestors.
We’re sparing you video of some of the more gruesome lessons from Schindler’s classes, like cutting open a deer carcass and butchering it.
But creating stone tools chipped from flint and obsidian allowed early humans to go from staring at an animal carcass to cutting it open for food. With the stone tools, humans would no longer starve to death.
"It may not look like much," said Schindler, waving a rough hewn piece of quartz. "But this completely changed the relationship between Homo habilis and its environment. They were no longer restricted to just using their nails and their teeth."
Schindler starred in the National Geographic survival show, The Great Human Race. The show sent him and a partner into some of the world's toughest environments without tools or weapons to see if they could survive.
In the show, he and his partner starred down a lion. “Oh my God. Stand your ground,” said his partner Cat Bigney.
Recently, the distinguished professor and experimental archeologist delivered a convocation address in buckskin.
"I think we need to conceptualize this with and example," he told the crowd.
His classes sometimes take students out foraging for healthy wild plants on the side of the road.
"The coolest plant right here in this spot is right in the crack of the curb," he said on a recent trip. "It’s called pineapple weed."
Steeped as a tea and sweetened, it tastes a lot like pineapple.
Schindler lives not in a cave or a teepee, but in a nice suburban home with his wife and three children. The family has shared his incredible experiences -- like a week subsisting in a thatched hut in a stone-age village in Denmark.
"We’re different than other families, but people think it’s cool," said his daughter Brianna, 13.
His suburban home is often packed with college students, making things like head cheese and pork liver pate.
“Squeamish at all?” I asked seniors Katie Walker and Ericka Koontz. “No.”
"Not squeamish?” I asked again. “We helped butcher the pig, so no.”
In the wood-fired outdoor oven, they were making sourdough bread.
“This isn’t primitive," said Schindler of the big pizza oven. "But the technique for fermenting this for a very long time could well be 10 to 12 thousand years old."
All the food is for a big college banquet celebrating a multimillion dollar fundraiser.
"It’s not about eating like cavemen, it’s about learning to eat like humans again," said the students, reading from the tee shirts they were wearing.
Homo erectus lived on this planet for almost two million years. Modern humans have been here for far less time.
"What have we done to this planet in 200,000 years? What have we done to ourselves?" asked Schindler.
He thinks we need to relearn those ancient skills so we may reconnect with our past and remember what it means to be human. Especially if we hope to be around anywhere near as long.
"But we’re also the smartest species on this planet," he said, with a little more optimism.
For those of you struggling in school or at your job, here's an encouraging story from Schindler. He failed and later dropped out of Ohio State
It was only after realizing he had a degenerative eye disease and eventually receiving two corneal transplants that he finally got back on track.
Now he’s the endowed chair of the brand new Eastern Shore Food Lab, which is out to make humans healthier by studying the diet of nutrient-dense foods our ancestors used to eat.
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