Niche construction and the toolkits of hunter-gatherers and food producers

TitleNiche construction and the toolkits of hunter-gatherers and food producers
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsCollard M, Buchanan B, Ruttle A, O’Brien MJ
JournalBiological Theory
AbstractIn the study reported here we examined the impact of population size and two proxies of risk of resource failure on the diversity and complexity of the food-getting toolkits of hunter–gatherers and small-scale food producers. We tested three hypotheses: the risk hypothesis, the population-size hypothesis, and a hypoth- esis derived from niche construction theory. Our analyses indicated that the toolkits of hunter–gatherers are more affected by risk than are the toolkits of food producers. They also showed that the toolkits of food producers are more affected by population size than are the toolkits of hunter–gatherers. This pattern is inconsistent with the predictions of both the risk hypothesis and the population- size hypothesis. In contrast, it is consistent with the pre- dictions of the niche construction hypothesis. Our results indicate that niche construction has affected the evolution of technology in small-scale societies and imply that niche construction must be taken into account when seeking to understand technological variation among food producers and the technological changes that occurred in association with the various transitions to farming that have occurred over the last 10,000 years