Man as a tool user, however, established a new form of material possession: the
indirect ownership established by the use of tools. A tool enables a man to exert control
over an object that is not in his hand, nor in the immediate area. I call this ‘remote
control of ownership’, which is based on the separation of an individual who owns an
object from the one who actually uses or carries it about.
The primary function of a tool in subsistence activities was to extract natural
resources more efficiently than with the bare hands. Tools are particularly effective in
hunting. It was, of course, necessary for a hunter to have the skill to use a tool and the
knowledge about the animals to be hunted. But without a tool humans, as weak,
powerless predators, could not have killed animals larger than medium-sized mammals.
Humans invented a number of hunting tools as they depended increasingly on hunting
for subsistence. Contemporary hunter-gatherers also have a variety of hunting tools
and use them depending on the environmental conditions and habits of target animals.
The Mbuti hunters in the Ituri forest, for example, use nets, spears, bows and spring
traps for hunting. They can obviously improve hunting efficiency by using these tools.
The point is, however, that tools are often used for social purposes. Simple hand-held
tools such as those used by hunter-gatherers may be considered an extension of the
body when they are used for manipulating the environment, as Leroi-Gourhan (1965)
pointed out. Tools are, however, detachable from the body, and actually detached from
an individual when exchanged with another individual. In this context, they are no
longer just an extension of the body, but become socially manipulable objects.
The Mbuti hunters in the Ituri forest, for example, use hunting tools for
generating and maintaining social relationships. The Mbuti youth, who have no nets of
their own, often borrow nets from old men, who remain in the camp and make nets. In
this way, a role differentiation and interdependence are maintained between the youth
who actively hunt and the old who provide them with hunting tools. They also lend their
nets to visitors as a sign of hospitality. Visitors are usually given food, but a more
intimate welcome is to provide them with nets and a chance to hunt together. We were
treated in this way while visiting their forest camps with a Mbuti man, who joined in
the net hunting and received a share. Bows, arrows and spears are also lent and
borrowed in a similar way, though less frequently, among the Mbuti.
Another important social aspect of tool use is ownership. Even among
egalitarian hunter-gatherer societies in central Africa, the owner of the game is clearly
defined, although ‘owner’ in their language often conveys different but related
meanings depending on the context, such as ‘host’, ‘guardian’, ‘master’, as well as ‘owner’
in the Western sense. In most cases, the owner of the animal is the owner of the hunting