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How Complex Is Hunter-Gatherer Technology

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Erik O'Neal

How complex is hunter-gatherer technology

It's funny how we as a people can take for granted and deem certain clichés such as "man's work" or "woman's work" as being sexist and derogatory and they can be within context. These terms have been the foundation for a century long battle of epic proportions between the male and female sex within the workplace in the societies of the western world. But what's not understood is that the "division of labor" between the sexes appears to be the very engine that is driving the process of technological innovation among the human race.

"Man's work" and "woman's work" or the "division of labor" in essence, is the root for the specialization of certain tasks such as the foraging for edible roots, and berries; or the ability to hunt or fish. These specialized skills helped to create a system of exchange or trade amongst hunter gatherer groups that have been going on for over 80-100,000 years. This phenomenon of exchange of ideas and creations is thought to have begun with hunter/gather societies and is considered a unique trait among all humans. The archaeological record shows the development of specialized tools and the separation of certain groups to divide tasks into tribal specializations to obtain precious resources among the hunter gatherer groups displays the ability for "collective intelligence." The "collective brain" or "collective intelligence" as defined by Matt Ridley is the interchange of ideas; the meeting and mating of ideas between them that is causing technological progress. And this technological progress can be seen among the fossil records which contain stone tools, hand axes, spears, and bows and arrows, and technology each specially designed to do a job specific to the environment of which it was created for. Let's take the Inuit for example; they split into two different ethnic groups the Nanamuit and Taramuit each with its on specialization. The Nunamiut's main focus is the Caribou which the men hunt with bows and arrows and the women butcher and skin, while the Taramuit's hunt whales and seals which they have developed boats for fishing salmon, harpoons with balloon floats for killing whales, and spears for killing seals through their blow holes. With the creation of these specialized groups the Inuit were able to satisfy the resource needs of their people through exchange and trade with items such as Caribou skins for clothing, salmon, whale fat, meat, and bones.

Exchange and specialization within human societies is the basic concept that is required to develop "collective intelligence." Without exchange and specialization the idea of technology starts to deteriorate within a society that lacks the ability to create



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