Before Farming

Implications of Bofi & Aka ethnoarchaeology in the Congo Basin for understanding Late Holocene technological change

Before Farming (2011), 2011, (4), 1–14.

Abstract

Conventional views of the diffusion or transmission of new technologies are deeply rooted in the principle that people adopt and use the most efficient tool to solve different problems. But a variety of studies show that although performance efficiency underlies the adoption of some technologies, socio-political factors can strongly guide the range and deployment of new technologies and the speed at which items spread (eg, Kim 2001). Socio-political goals and motivations of individuals are especially relevant for understanding the prehistoric and ethnographic technological transfers of interacting, but ethnically diverse, populations in the Congo Basin. The transfer of technologies between these populations encompassed iron items including those with high economic and/or prestige value. Ethnographically, Bantu populations controlled the production and distribution of these high value items and provided a range of utilitarian benefits to foragers who affiliated with them. Under these circumstances, the spread and deployment of some technologies are linked to advertising and maintaining affiliation with people who control expensive, prestige garnering items, information, and other valued resources. A particularly revealing example of this process is the adoption and spread of the hunting nets among forest foragers. This hunting technology is demonstrably less efficient at obtaining prey than other available hunting technologies and purportedly originated with Bantu populations. I argue that the use of inefficient hunting nets is an extension of a much older process in which foragers advertised their affiliation with Bantu agriculturalists who provided access to a variety of desirable benefits.

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Lupo, Karen