Risk, mobility, or population size? Drivers of technological richness among contact-period western North American hunter–gatherers

TitleRisk, mobility, or population size? Drivers of technological richness among contact-period western North American hunter–gatherers
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsCollard M, Buchanan B, O'Brien M, Scholnick J
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B
Volume368
Issue1630
Pagination20120412
Date Published10/2013
Keywordshunter–gatherers, mobility hypothesis, population-size hypothesis, risk hypothesis, technological richness, western North America
AbstractIdentifying factors that influence technological evolution in small-scale societies is important for understanding human evolution. There have been a number of attempts to identify factors that influence the evolution of food-getting technology, but little work has examined the factors that affect the evolution of other technologies. Here, we focus on variation in technological richness (total number of material items and techniques) among recent hunter–gatherers from western North America and test three hypotheses: (i) technological richness is affected by environmental risk, (ii) population size is the primary determinant of technological rich- ness, and (iii) technological richness is constrained by residential mobility. We found technological richness to be correlated with a proxy for environ- mental risk—mean rainfall for the driest month—in the manner predicted by the risk hypothesis. Support for the hypothesis persisted when we controlled for shared history and intergroup contact. We found no evidence that technological richness is affected by population size or residential mobility. These results have important implications for unravelling the com- plexities of technological evolution.
URLhttp://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/368/1630/20120412.full
DOI10.1098/rstb.2012.0412
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