Later Stone Age in Southern Africa

Topics: Stone Age, Stone tool, Radio spectrum Pages: 30 (9256 words) Published: January 21, 2013
The major part of humans’ adaptation to their environment depends on the systematic amassing of cultural and technological skills. Humans occupy a wider and more diverse range of habitats than any other animal species. Humans also form more complex social systems, as a result of their advanced cognitive abilities. In recent years, new models of this process proposed that the larger and more successfully inter-connected the population, the more complex the toolkits would be (Kline and Boyd 2010:1) (Henrich 2004:198).

This paper explores these ideas using Later Stone Age artefact assemblages from South Africa. At three of the major sites, Nelson Bay Cave, Boomplaas Cave and Wilton Large Rock Shelter, I calculated technological complexity and its association with changes in climate and environment. The analysis of tool complexity would then assist in the inference of cultural transmission in varying demographic factors (population size and interconnectedness) (Henrich 2004:198). To understand the association between climate and technology, as well as to gain knowledge on previous associations between the two, I have included in this paper research done by Joseph Henrich (2004, 2006) and Michelle Kline and Robert Boyd (2010). Henrich (2004), in his research on cultural transmission on the island of Tasmania, observes the effectiveness of varying sizes of population in the transmission of technological and cultural skills. Henrich’s research analysed the observations of Wendell Oswalt and William McGrew on the small group of societies in Tasmania, which were isolated from larger mainstream populations for an extended period of time. It was found that these small societies had a simple tool technology when compared to the surrounding populations of Australia (Henrich 2004:2). More specifically these populations had lost technological and cultural skills possessed by their ancestors (Henrich 2004:2). The inference is that due to their (the Tasmanian societies) isolation, the population size was not large enough to successfully transmit cultural and technological skills. Therefore the larger the population the more complex the toolkits would have been. Recent research on the association between technology and demography completed by Kline and Boyd (2010) looks at islands in Oceania around the time of early European contact. Small island populations in Oceania were found to have less complex tool technology in comparison to larger marine foraging societies (Kline and Boyd 2010:1). The hypothesis tested here was that larger, interconnected societies would generate and pass on more complex cultural and technological skills for production of tools. In both papers, the calculation of the association between technology and demography is based on research done by Wendell Oswalt (1976). Oswalt developed a method for converting tool functions into numerical values, to express the degree of complexity of the toolkit. The research done by Kline and Boyd (2010) and Henrich (2004) looks at analysing how effective cultural transmission of skills varies within different population sizes. The analysis of the relationship between cultural transmission and demography includes Oswalt’s creation of a determination system. This model can be utilised to derive the complexity or simplicity of the technology from various toolkits (Oswalt 1976:28). There are various variables to account for when applying this test to data. The greatest independent variable would be the climate. Here the incorporation of an outside influence (climate) is to be taken into account and the effective temperature has been incorporated. The calculation for the Effective Temperature was created by Harry Bailey in 1964. Bailey created a calculation which could specifically analyse the numerical value at which the temperature would be at its most effective in terms of the flourishing of vegetation and fauna respectively.

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