The Hunter-Gatherer – Equipment List
If like me you find yourself spending far too much of your time imagining being a prehistoric hunter-gatherer and running around the woods living off the land then this blog is probably going to be of some interest to you.
In this series of blogs I thought it would be a cool idea to explore what a European hunter-gatherer could have carried with him (or her) on a daily basis. We will try to pull apart the amount of skill, time, energy and resources that they must have had just to survive in the forests of Europe thousands of years ago. In this first addition, we will be only be looking at how much time it may have taken to produce some of their everyday equipment. In subsequent blogs, we will start looking at some of the processes and resources behind the equipment.
Now as I write I can already hear the cries of the archaeologists scream at me for lack of evidence or find to back up my statements. This blog is my opinion. It is a concept of an idea. All of the timings you will see below has been gathered from the first-hand experience of making the equipment either by me or from other instructors.
The whole thrust of this article is to try to get you, as the readers, to think and attempt to show you the amount of time and skill that is required to make this set of equipment that hunter-gathers may have carried. I am certainly not stating ‘this is definitely what they carried’.
This list is nothing new to those of us who study primitive skills but the focus of this article is to emphasise how much time it would take to make all of the equipment. Sometimes I find when teaching these skills we can be rather blasé and drastically underestimate how much time, resources and skill it would have taken to make equipment, even if to us that equipment seems very simple and easy at first glance.
When you start making them for yourself, however, from start to finish, you realise how long they do in fact take to make and how complex the process actually is and begin to wonder ‘would a nomadic hunter gather really have put this much time and effort when there may be an easier solution?’.
Secondly, this list is an amalgamation of all of our instructor’s experience of experimenting with primitive skills. So this list is not saying it will definitely take 6 hours to make 1 arrow for the simple fact it completely depends on whether it’s a practical, functional tool or if it’s a prized symmetrical hunting weapon. On that point, I have combined the expertise of our instructors and taken an average and also taken into consideration the fact that the speed of the craft work will be determined by environmental, cultural and individual factors.
Thirdly this list is just a very generic list for one person living nomadically by themselves and would have changed throughout the seasons and environments.
I have detailed at each point what the equipment is made from and roughly how long it would take to make.
To begin with here are some timings of how long it would take to make some of the most common materials that repeatedly come up, so you can approximate how long a piece might take.
1 small deer hide would take approximately from start to finish 28 hours of solid physical work to completely transform it into softened usable buckskin, not including the time it takes with leaving the hides in the bucking solution and rinsing.
1 large deer hide into a rawhide sheet would only take 2 hours of labour not including soaking rinsing and drying plus another 2 hours if you wanted to turn that rawhide into lacing.
Processed Tree bark – 2 hours -from collection debarking and boiling ready to be dried and then used for other crafts such as cordage, weaving project (bags belts etc.) or simple lacing.
Buckskin shirt –140 hours -5 Small buckskin hides- including making the buckskin, cutting the pattern and sewing.
Buckskin Trousers – 112 hours -4 Small buckskin hides –the whole process from skins to a usable pair of trousers including making the buckskin, cutting the pattern and sewing.
Buckskin Moccasins– 70 hours – 3 small buckskin hides- cutting the pattern and sewing and fitting.
Buckskin Hat – 28 hours – 1 small buckskin hide- including making the buckskin, cutting the pattern and sewing.
Woven Bark Belt – 4 hours – Collection processing and weaving not including drying.
Stick and Raw Hide Pack Frame -7 hours- 1 large piece of rawhide cut into lacing collection of sticks and assembly of the pack.
Flint Knife – 4 hours – Including shaping the blade and hafting
Stone Axe – 8 hours – 1 piece of easily ground stone such as slate. Handle material with a hafting system and rawhide binding.
Sewing kit and repairs kit – Bone needles – 2 hours.
Pine pitch or birch tar – 2 hours (with modern equipment!!).
Flint nodules and blades – the time it takes to find the nodules – blades can be made in a matter of seconds.
Flint re-toucher and hammers – no time scale -when antlers are found or suitable game is hunted
Fire lighting equipment – no time scale -Iron pyrites and flint – however long it takes to find the different stones usually at the coast.
Bow – 48 Hours– felling the tree 1 hour – using flint tools for shaping and tillering the bow could take up to 2 days of solid work.
Arrows – 6 hours -30 minutes to collect, debark and straighten shaft. Upton 1 hours to shape the bone or flint head up to 4 hours to collect and process binding material 20 mins to bind on flights. Total for 1 arrow.
Quiver– 6 hours – small wicker quiver- 20 long thin stems such as reed or willow collection 1 hour – processed bark binding 3 hours – assembly 2 hours.
Trapping equipment – snares, trigger sticks, nets, hooks
Food Rations – 36-48 hours to collect, prepare and dry. Dried meat and dried fruits nuts and berries and other plant matter (Hazelnut for example)
Bedroll – small furs or skins however mainly relying on a naturally occurring material to make beds.
Leather Pouches – 30 hours – 1 buckskin to make 5 small pouches
Water skin – either skin or woven.
Spare materials – rawhide, bone, plant fibres etc.