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Steel Axes In Australia

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In his classic essay Steel Axes for Stone Age Australians, the anthropologist Lauriston Sharp described how, among Australia 's Yir Yoront aborigines, only senior men knew how to make stone axes, and this allowed them to maintain their authority over women and junior men, who had to borrow an axe from a senior man whenever they needed one. However, missionary workers gave the aborigines steel axes, without preferring senior men over the others - indeed senior men avoided the missionaries and tended to lose out in the distribution of steel axes. This removed the basis of the senior men 's authority and led to a breakdown in the aborigines ' whole social order. Similar social transformations may have been triggered by the switch from stone to
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