Causes of Toolkit Variation Among Hunter-Gatherers: A Test of Four Competing Hypotheses

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Citation: Mark Collard, Michael Kemery, Samantha Banks (2005) Causes of Toolkit Variation Among Hunter-Gatherers: A Test of Four Competing Hypotheses. Canadian Journal of Archaeology (RSS)
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Colliard et al. determine what factors affect diversity and complexity hunter-gatherer tool kits. The samples in this article consist of 20 populations studied by Oswalt (1976) and Torrence (1983, 1989) which include the Angmakaslik, Caribou Inuit, Chenchu, Copper Inuit, Ingalik, Ingulik Inuit, Great Andamanese, Groote-eyland, Klamath, Nabesna, Nharo, Northern Arenda, Owens Valley Paiute, Surprise Valley Paiute, Tanaina, Tareumiut Inuit, Tasmanians, Tiwi, Tlingit, and Twana.

Methods and Materials

The variables tested were the number of subsistants (instruments, weapons and facilities) used, the number of technounits (distinct configuration contributing to tool form) in toolkits, and the average number of technounits per subsistant. Number of subsistants was used as a measure of diversity and number of technounits a measure of complexity. Linear regression analysis took temperature , net above-ground productivity (growth of plant biomass), contribution of land and aquatic animals to diets, the contribution of land animals only to diet, the contribution of aquatic animals only to diets, number of residential moves per year, the distance traveled annually during these moves, and the size of the population into account.


Temperature and net above-ground productivity were the only factors to show a significant impact. The logarithm of temperature directly affected total number of subsistants and the number of technounits and all tool types. Portable tools were only impacted by net above-ground productivity. The authors conclude that risk is the primarily what determines hunter-gatherer tool kits as they considered both these factors as measures of risk but add that it would be premature to accept these findings without further study.

Theoretical and Practical Relevance

This article contributes to the debate of how to account for changes in stone tool technology throughout the archaeological record. Risk, mobility, population size, and other factors named in the article have been put forth as contributors to these changes. Colliard et al. used step-wise linear regression to test which of these factors had an impact. Although the authors caution about their results risk can not be discounted as a factor in changes observed in hunter-gatherer tool kits.