Tools Across Time picture

Tools Across Time

For many  people in the U.S. bushcraftng and wilderness skills community, it is George Washington Sears who gets credit for promoting the idea of carrying a team of cutting tools on woods-wandering journeys. It was something he actively, and quite enthusiastically promoted, primarily for more efficiency in performing various tasks in a wilderness setting, but also for more comfort and less fatigue for a more enjoyable adventure. However, the idea was not exactly a new one, even in his time. It goes back much further in history than some might imagine, Nessmuk was just one of many. He was however the first one in history to publish his thoughts on the matter after the invention of the printing press. So he was the first one to have them disseminated on such a large scale, for such a broad audience to read.

If you take a look at the possessions that Otzi "the ice man” was carrying at the time he died in the Otzal Alps, somewhere around 3,500 years ago, you will see that he was carrying a team of tools. Along with his long bow and arrows, he was also carrying a copper bladed hand axe for chopping duty (and possibly for offensive / defensive uses as well), a wooden-handled stone-bladed belt knife for general utility uses,, and then some smaller flint shards for finer cutting and for arrow heads. Yet this wasn't exactly a new philosophy in Otzi's time – the Copper Age – , either, as very similar functioning teams of stone tools have been found at other archaeological sites over the years. Many of which are much older than Otzi, and go back into the early portions of the Paleolithic Era. This is because the concept is based in logic. The larger tools would obviously be needed for heavier duties, such as building shelters. However most common tasks, such as making other tools and utensils, or harvesting wild edibles, would require more finesse than force. There would have been times when one wouldn't have wanted to attract the attention of dangerous predators or even competition. Though it may not be widely publicized, those same types of circumstances have been repeated over the years during times of war, natural disasters, and misfortune.


Today, much like throughout the rest of human history, we still use teams of tools in our daily lives. Albeit different tools for different people, who lead different lives, and perform different tasks. Different strokes for different folks as the saying goes. When it comes to cutting tools, we also still use the smaller ones far more often than the larger ones. In many ways for the exact same reasons. Practical application and ease of carry are of course the most obvious ones. Like the flint shards of old, small knives are simply more portable than their larger counterparts, and will handle the vast majority of the cutting we may need to do on a regular basis. Yet there are other similar reasons also. The terms predator and competition may or may not apply, depending on the circumstances, but avoiding unwanted attention still plays a role for some people in some places none the less. As they go about there own version of a hunter / gatherer lifestyle. 

In time it will come to pass, if in fact you haven't done so already, that you too will pass along your own philosophies on teams of tools. Either to your children, or to any others whom you may teach and / or mentor. It's just the natural order of things, for us to pass on that which we have learned. Especially those things we learned from personal experiences the hard way. When you do, I hope that you keep this thought in mind. Every bit as important as, and in all honesty more so in my opinion, the quality of the tools you leave behind (whatever those tools may be), is the knowledge of how to use them effectively.

Whether or not we are remembered, is largely up to society and history itself. Yet how we are remembered is for the most part up to us.



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