Fishing for white elephants

Barbara King notes the recent characterization of fish cooking residues on early Japanese pottery: “What 15,000 Years Of Cooking Fish Tells Us About Humanity”. She focuses on the relationship between status-seeking and innovation:

The idea is that hunter-gatherers who, during many periods and in many habitats, enjoyed enough abundance not to eat hand-to-mouth to survive accorded special status to some foods. In discussing this possibility, Oliver Craig sent me an article published 10 years ago in the journal World Archaeology by Brian Hayden that establishes a good frame of reference. Hayden describes some Southeast Asian prehistoric societies, among the first to domesticate plants and animals, that he thinks also produced the first "luxury goods" foods used in the context of ceremonial feasting.

Status imposes demands over and above survival, spurring innovation beyond what might be expected from mere subsistence requirements. Unlike survival, status-seeking selects for white elephants: costly and non-portable technologies.