Daggers, knowledge & power

Sammanfattning: This dissertation investigates how far the organisation of a traditional technology corresponds to the degree of social complexity in a sedentary, agrarian society. An examination of the production of flint daggers during the Late Stone Age and Early Bronze Age of Scandinavia indicates the presence of formal apprenticeship systems based on corporate descent groups. Thus, the Late Neolithic societies in Scandinavia were more complex than previously thought. The flint dagger technology is subjected to an operational-chain analysis. This method is rooted in Durkeimian sociology and, consequently, technical gestures are regarded as social phenomena that are learned in social contexts. Two important concepts form the basis of my investigation: (1) knowledge (connaissance) and (2) know-how (savoir-faire). Knowledge has an explicit and declarative character and can be communicated to others; it can be passed from teacher to pupil by word of mouth, signs or written language. Know-how is an unconscious memory that springs from practical experience only. It is intuitive, connected with body movements and can only be learned by practical repetition. The gestures involved in each of the defined dagger-production stages were graded according to their relative degree of knowledge and know-how during practical experiments. Some stages were based on simple knowledge and a low degree of know-how. Other stages demanded a fair proportion of knowledge, in the form of recipes for action, and very high degree of know-how. This suggests that the craftsmanship was handed down through the generations by a form of apprenticeship system based on hereditary principles. The logic behind this reasoning is twofold. First, in such a system, the time needed to transmit know-how through the generations made the principle of kinship the most convenient mechanism for recruitment. Second, flint and manufacturing skills were valuable assets that stimulated some form of limited access and thus regulations of group membership. Accordingly, fixed social institutions were present in the Late Neolithic communities of Scandinavia and the presence of such formal institutions are indications of a fairly high level of social complexity. The flint-technology therefore entailed a highly developed craftsmanship, and the flint daggers were distributed over large areas of northern and central Europe by corporate groups or by regional and local elites. This interpretation is also related to Pierre Bourdieu's theory of practice. Terms such as symbolic capital and habitus are used to give social meaning to the technology and its role, actively and metaphorically, in the reproduction of the Scandinavian Late Neolithic communities.

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