Recent work has demonstrated that technological traditions can be considered as systems of information transmission that operate on the principle of ‘descent with modification’. In this paper we present an ethno-historical case-study of northeast Californian hunter–fisher–gatherers. Our goal is to understand the factors generating long-term diversity in local material culture, and we begin by investigating the extent to which branching and reticulation explain variation in four distinct technological traditions – basketry, cradles, ceremonial dress and earth-lodges. We then examine whether these four traditions have been transmitted in tandem, or are characterized by entirely different descent histories. The results for this particular case-study suggest that the first three traditions have been closely associated during branching descent, while the earth-lodges appear to have entirely distinct transmission histories. The general analytical framework presented in this paper is readily exportable to other world regions, where local case-studies may generate contrasting insights into historically-contingent patterns of cultural inheritance. Further studies examining potential co-transmission of technological traditions are strongly encouraged as a welcome addition to the cultural transmission literature.
- cultural transmission