An Interaction Model for Resource Implement Complexity Based on Risk and Number of Annual Moves

American Antiquity Vol/Iss. 73(4) Cambridge University Press Published In Pages: 599-625
By Read, Dwight


In this paper, the authors analyzed data on 20 hunter-gatherer groups in order to understand the factors that influence the diversity and elaborateness of their tool assemblages. They used data collected by a variety of ethnographers to draw inferences about the complexity of implement assemblages and how it is affected by ecological constraints, modes of resource procurement, group movement, and population size. Regression analysis showed that the two strongest predictors of implement complexity were growth season (GS) (as a proxy for risk) and the number of annual residential moves (NMV). With the understanding that NMV and GS are likely not independent, the authors created addition and interaction models to understand how these variables may work in tandem to influence implement diversity and elaborateness. The results show that a shorter growing season (higher risk) and a lower number of moves are correlated with greater implement complexity. This analysis also divided the hunter-gatherers into two subgroups: a subgroup characterized by higher diversity of complex implements and more elaborate individual implements than predicted by the model, and a subgroup characterized by lower diversity and less elaborateness than predicted. These subgroups were found to correspond with the distinction between foragers (groups that move more-or-less as a unit while gathering) and collectors (groups that gather (logistically from a more-or-less fixed settlement), with the higher diversity subgroup being made up mostly of collectors and the lower diversity subgroup being made up mostly of foragers. Finally, the authors suggest that under conditions where population growth leads to increased density, foraging strategies will tend to shift to collector strategies in conjunction with increased elaborateness of implements to exploit resources with greater intensity.


Sample Used Coded Data Comment
Oswalt (1976)Other researchersData on implement diversity and elaborateness amongst 20 hunter-gatherer groups
Binford (2001)Other researchersData on subsistence strategy, group movement, land productivity, and demographics amongst 20 hunter-gatherer groups
Oswalt (1973)Other researchersAdditional data on the Yaghan
Collard et al. (2005)Other researchersData on land productivity, demographics, group movement amongst 20 hunter-gatherer groups
Henrich (2006)Other researchersData on implement elaborateness amongst 20 hunter-gatherer groups

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