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The term “subsistence technology” can be confusing in some ways. When we talk about “subsistence farming” we are talking about farming on a low level that provides just enough for people to survive. By analogy, subsistence technology should be technology that is just good enough to allow people to survive. But that is not what it is. Instead, subsistence technology is simply the technology that people use to obtain the basics that they need for their lives.
With this definition in mind, we can easily think of examples. For paleolithic hunter-gatherers, for example, subsistence technologies would have included things like bows and arrows, stone axes, and perhaps skin bags for carrying things. For early farming societies, subsistence technologies would have included things like digging sticks. Today, we have a variety of subsistence technologies, all of which are based on industry. We have things like tractors and chemical fertilizers. We have power tools that are used to build our houses. We have much more advanced subsistence technologies than people had in times past.
“Subsistence technology,” then, refers to the technologies that people use in order to subsist.
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