M.A.Theses: April Ruttle, 2011


Risk and Technology: Exploring the Causes of Toolkit Variation among Subsistance Farmers

Recent research suggests that risk of resource failure is a major determinant of toolkit structure among hunter-gatherers. Here, I report a study in which I tested the hypothesis that risk of resource failure also influences the toolkits of small-scale food producers.

I collected toolkit and risk data for 45 ethnographically-documented populations from Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Oceania. Risk of resource failure was represented in the analyses by a series of environmental variables chosen for their expected influence on food-production. The relationship between toolkit structure and risk was investigated with simple linear regression analysis.

The results of the study did not support the risk hypothesis. None of the environmental variables had a statistically significant influence on the toolkit variables. This suggests that the technology of subsistence-level food-producers is subject to different influences than that of hunter-gatherers. A supplementary analysis indicated that population size may be one such influence.

Keywords: subsistence technology; risk of resource failure; subsistence-level food producers; toolkit variation; toolkit diversity; toolkit complexity