A Formal approach to the design and assembly of mobile toolkits

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303 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)426-442
Number of pages17
JournalAmerican Antiquity
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 1994
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Archaeology
  • Museology


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