Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

A Formal Approach to the Design and Assembly of Mobile Toolkits

  • Steven L. Kuhn (a1)

It is widely believed that the design of transported artifacts and toolkits employed by mobile populations is influenced by two main factors, portability and potential utility. Choices about the kinds of artifacts to carry around can be modeled as an optimization problem, in which it is beneficial to obtain the greatest potential utility for the minimum total weight. This study approaches the problem analytically, making a few simple assumptions about artifact geometry and the relations between utility and artifact size. If artifact utility is calculated as a function of potential for renewal, transported toolkits should consist entirely of relatively small finished tools. Moreover, most gains in durability or multifunctionality that require increases in overall size are outweighed by increased transport cost. Inconsistencies between these expectations and ethnographic and archaeological observations point to situations in which artifact functionality is more closely constrained by overall size or mass.


Existe una creencia generalizada que sostiene que el diseño de artefactos y conjuntos de herramientas transportados y empleados por poblaciones móbiles está influenciado por dos factores principales, portabilidad y utilidad potencial. La selección de las clases de artefactos que se transportan puede ser modelada como un problema de optimización, en el cual es provechoso obtener la mayor utilidad potencial por el menor peso total. Este estudio enfoca el problema analiticamente, y utiliza pocos supuestos simples sobre la geometría del artefacto y las relaciones entre utilidad y tamaño del artefacto. Si la utilidad del artefacto se calcula como una función del potencial de renovación, los conjuntos de herramientas transportados consisten enteramente en herramientas acabadas y de tamaño relativamente pequeño. Además, la mayoría de los beneficios en cuanto a durabilidad y funcionalidad múltiple que requieren encrementos de tamaño están limitados por el incremento en el costo de transporte. Inconsistencias entre estos supuestos y las observaciones etnográficas y arqueológicas señalan situaciones en las que la funcionalidad del artefacto está constreñida por su tamaño o masa.

Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

D. Bamforth 1986 Technological Efficiency and Stone Tool Curation. American Antiquity 51 : 3850.

D. Bamforth 1991 Technological Organization and Hunter-Gatherer Land Use : A California Example. American Antiquity 56 : 21634.

L. R. Binford 1979 Organization and Formation Processes : Looking at Curated Technologies. Journal of Anthropological Research 35 : 255273.

P. Bleed 1986 The Optimal Design of Hunting Weapons. American Antiquity 51 : 737747.

J. A. Brannan 1991 On Modeling Resource Transport Costs : Suggested Refinements. Current Anthropology 33 : 5660.

R. A. Gould , D. A. Koster , and A. H. L. Sontz 1971 The Lithic Assemblage of the Western Desert Aborigines of Australia. American Antiquity 36 : 149169.

K. T. Jones , and D. B. Madsen 1989 Calculating the Cost of Resource Transportation : A Great Basin Example. Current Anthropology 30 : 529534.

R. Kelly 1988 The Three Sides of a Biface. American Antiquity 53 : 717734.

R. Kelly , and L. C. Todd 1988 Coming into the Country : Early Paleoindian Hunting and Mobility. American Antiquity 53 : 231244.

S. L. Kuhn 1992 On Planning and Curated Technologies in the Middle Paleolithic. Journal of Anthropological Research 48 : 185214.

D. Metcalfe , and K. R. Barlow 1992 A Model for Exploring the Optimal Trade-ofF Between Field Processing and Transport. American Anthropologist 94 : 340356.

M. Shott 1986 Settlement Mobility and Technological Organization : An Ethnographic Examination. Journal of Anthropological Research 42 : 1551.

M. C Stiner , and S. L. Kuhn 1992 Subsistence, Technology, and Adaptive Variation in Middle Paleolithic Italy. American Anthropologist 94 : 306339.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

American Antiquity
  • ISSN: 0002-7316
  • EISSN: 2325-5064
  • URL: /core/journals/american-antiquity
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 2 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 108 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 20th January 2017 - 20th September 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.