My latest obsession is Primitive Technology, a video blog from remote northern Australia. The creator, who hasn’t identified himself by name, has an ambitious goal: to go out into the wilderness and recreate as much human technology as possible, starting from the Stone Age and working his way up.
Working with nothing but his bare hands and whatever natural materials he can find, he makes tools from scratch, which he can then use to make more complex tools: knapping stone into hand axes, using the axes to cut down trees to make digging sticks and fire drills, using the fire to bake clay into pottery, and so on. Some of his finished products are amazingly complex.
Among other things, he made a bow and arrows:
He spun bark fiber into yarn and constructed a hand loom to weave it into textiles:
Using mud, sticks and charcoal, he built a furnace that was hot enough to smelt iron:I have no idea where you can learn to do things like this, or whether it’s all trial and error, but either way I’m envious of what this guy is capable of. Even though it’s unlikely that flint-knapping or manual fire-starting will ever again be marketable skills, I understand the allure of self-sufficiency, and this is about as self-sufficient as you get. (He’s probably the closest real-life equivalent to the heroes of Atlas Shrugged who can make engines by hand.) If civilization collapses and we have to start over again, this is definitely the guy you want to be standing next to.
This goes to show that the earliest human beings weren’t brutes or savages. They were just as intelligent as we are, maybe more so (how many of us would be able to start a fire from scratch or hunt our own food?). They just didn’t have centuries of technological progress to fall back on. It’s something to reflect on, when you think about what it takes to keep you fed, clothed and sheltered, and to furnish you with the modern conveniences that we all take for granted.