YouTube Excellence #1: Primitive Technology

I’ve wanted to do a series on YouTubers for a bit but now I’ve gotten the idea for exactly what to do so I will be showing you guys some of my favorite YouTubers and why I think they are unique when compared to others. Have you ever wondered how our ancestors made anything from scratch? Primitive Technology is your answer. Based in the north of Australia, he demonstrates a variety of simple and complex tasks all requiring mud, clay, stone, wood, plants or anything else you can find in nature. What he does with it is quite amazing and I’ll go through the videos showing you how he has progressively gotten more complex over time. Right now he sits at over 6 million subscribers and over 400 million views on YouTube. Quite an achievement for so few videos. There is usually a month or less of a gap between posts but it’s worth it. Each one is a unique look at a different facet of how society would have functioned and what you had to do to survive.

Here are some examples and I do implore you to go to his channel, sign up for his Patreon and share the videos around. Currently he stands only a few dozen shy of 3,000 patrons. There is no talking, no music, no TV, nothing. He says that he doesn’t talk during the filming because he prefers pure demonstration for his videos. If you want to understand it a little more you can turn on the closed captioning and follow along or read the description. I’ll walk you through his videos so that you can see how they become more complex and this is in no specific order or view count but is only an order that gradually becomes more complex. The first is pretty simple, making a basket.

Primitive Technology: Baskets and stone hatchet

Credit: Primitive Technology

The first basket involves wrapping banana leaves together with lawyer cane to form a basket. To do this, he wraps several into a coil to form the base. Once it’s large enough he begins wrapping the canes around the outer edge in a circle, stacking higher and higher into a basket.  The next basket is more complicated but perhaps not as difficult once you get the hang of it.

First he created a star pattern with the lawyer cane and wrapped their bases together. Then, another separate piece of cane was wrapped out from the center in a coil shape, but not tightly, to form a base for the basket. The canes attached were folded upward to create the walls of the basket. A piece of cane was used once again to weave the folded canes together and completed the basket. When weaving the cane through the folded canes it was important to not do it too tightly since that would only curve them inward. They need to remain the same shape so that the wall has a foundation. Once the cane began to reach the top of the basket he folded the tips of the folded cane into the weaving so that the basket was tied together. The remainder of the video shows how to create a stone chisel and then how it can be used for cutting wood as well as shaping it to make an axe. Next, we’ll move onto a little fire.



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Primitive Technology: Charcoal

Credit: Primitive Technology

As the title suggests we’re making charcoal today! To start, he builds a larger fire pit than most people would need and then surrounds it with what appear to be dead leaves and then coats the entire pile in mud, forming a mound. He leaves a hole at the top as well as holes along the bottom. Once the fire starts to appear at the bottom holes he plugs every hole up with more mud and then leaves the fire to burn until it is burned out. When it finally cools he breaks open the mound and takes out all of the beautiful charcoal. If you only watch his videos then you’re in for a surprise here. At the bottom of his video description he mentions needing the charcoal so that he can have even hotter fires. But why would he need this? Well, he alludes to the fact that the hotter fires will be necessary if he is going to create metals from raw ores. I hope that this means in the future we will potentially see some blacksmith videos where he will demonstrate how to make tools. Finger crossed!

Primitive Technology: Forge Blower

Credit: Primitive Technology

I won’t describe this video because it doesn’t fit with the order but instead exemplifies a point I made about the last video. I consider this to essentially be a teaser for the future. Those black ingots at the end contain small amounts of iron which is a preview (hopefully) to future metalwork. Now onto food.

Primitive Technology: Sweet potato patch

Credit: Primitive Technology

Now we’re cooking! Actually farming but it’s still fun. He will be cultivating the delicious vegetable called a sweet potato. If you’ve never had the privilege of eating them then you are missing out. They’re similar to potatoes but far sweeter and savory. Drop by your local store and grab some if you have the inclination. Let’s begin with the video. First he chops (more like cuts since the trees are small) down some trees for a fence. He then tills the land he’ll use, removing rocks and adding fertilizer. He forms mounds 1 m apart with mounds in the top which are filled with mulch to aid the growing process. The sweet potatoes he is panting are at this point look like weeds you would pull from your garden but this is the beginning of the process. They are planted below the mounds at the top securely, mulch is placed in the mound and then water is poured into the mound. A snake starts living in the garden which is excellent for the smaller pests that get between or underneath the fence.

They take 3-4 months to grow and after that time the garden became completely covered in foliage with little visible dirt. Due to the forest canopy hogging a lot of the sunlight the yield was lower than it should have been which he acknowledged and wanted to change in the future. The yams (he added them too) and potatoes are removed from the dirt and ripped off from the stems they grow from which can be replanted to start all over again. Fun fact: sweet potato leaves are edible. He boils the leaves in water and cooks the potatoes and yams in an open fire, covering them in the coals and covering it with dead leaves. After enough time you can just pull them apart and enjoy. I think this counts as a cooking video as well. By the way, the ash from the fire is poured right back into the mounds and we wind the clocks back. Dinner anyone?



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Primitive Technology: Spear Thrower

Credit: Primitive Technology

The next task we have here is a spear thrower. This is an advanced mechanism which allows a spear to be launched with greater speed. First he finds a small tree with a branch coming out of it and cuts it down right below the branch. The side branch is shortened to a spur and the stick is shortened to 65 cm. All the bark is removed as well. He cuts down a sapling to use as a spear, measuring 2 m, and carves a hole in the bottom. This is where the spur on the spear thrower will be fitted into to hold the spear. The base is also wrapped in bark fiber to prevent it from splitting. He burns the end he’ll use for a spear and then sharpens it on the side of a rock. Then he goes out for some target practice. When the tip of the spear breaks there’s no problem. You can just sharpen it again and go back to throwing. It takes about a second for the spear to travel 15 m and lodge itself into a piece of wood so I recommend getting out of the range if someone is using it. This is an excellent demonstration of ancient weapons technology as well as a reminder of its ease. It only took him part of a day to make this. Imagine what 100 people working on making spears for a year could produce. We’ll shift gears now from fighting to building.

Primitive Technology: Wattle and Daub Hut

Credit: Primitive Technology

We have now come to a much harder task, building a hut. This requires a lot of patience, materials and hard work which I imagine takes up most of his time. He starts by cutting down trees, planting them into staked holes in the ground and tying them together with vines. He forms the base of the house with shorter trees and uses longer ones inside for support and then builds the skeleton for the roof. Over the top he adds wood skewered with leaves for cover. In this early stage he also assembles a wooden bed. Remember, getting long pieces of wood through small spaces is very annoying. Next he cuts down and weaves saplings through the frame on the outside of his house to cover the spaces. Next comes a very enjoyable part of the construction process.

He gets clay from a nearby creek and mixes it with dried leaves to prevent cracking after heating. Next, he molds the clay into a pot shape and fires it to get a normal pot for collecting water. At this stage he begins mixing water with dirt to form mud and cakes it all over the wooden frames of the house. Later he collects paper bark from nearby trees to use for the roofing since the leaves are rotting. He follows this up with a modification to part of the hut by knocking out a hole in the back wall. He lays rocks along the outside, forming a square on the ground next to the hole. These rocks are later covered in the same mud used for the hut. He continually adds layers to the top of the square, building a hole higher and higher while also tending a small fire in the hole in order to force the mud to dry faster. Once he reaches the top of the hole in the wall he made, he then begins shrinking it further upward into a narrow lip. This will be a fireplace for the hut and the lip will funnel smoke out, just like a chimney.

Using the same construction method for the walls he builds a gable onto the back of the house. A gable is a triangular shaped portion of the house covering the empty space between the roof and wall. After finishing the gable he continues building the chimney until it is as high as the hut itself. He then shows the completed hut with a roaring fire in the fireplace. In the description he adds that the hut took 9 months to build but only 30 days of real work. This gives you an idea of the level of work needed to construct such places as well as how much effort he puts into his creations.

Primitive Technology: Tiled Roof Hut

Credit: Primitive Technology

Here we are. The grand finale. I chose this video to go last due to it being the most viewed video on his channel (over 40 million at this time) as well as the one I find to be the most interesting. He is constructing another hut in this video but it is more complicated than the last. He begins the construction in the same way as the other hut but this time he cuts mortises through the larger trees and hammers them onto the timber along the corners of the hut. For the roof he uses loya cane to wrap the wood together. He creates a kiln this time for forging materials which will come in handy later. To make the kiln he digs a trench and lays a large rock over it. He then uses mud to cover up one of the exits of the trench and the ground around the rock was covered with mud except for a place to put the kiln grate. The grate is necessary to separate the fire from the materials. Just like the fireplace from the other hut the grate is then surrounded in a circle with mud, rising to 50 cm. It’s similar to an oil drum in shape.

For the next step he mixes clay and shapes loya canes into square frames. As a pro tip, he uses wood ash on the stone he mixes the clay on to prevent sticking. He pounds clay into the square frame and creates a smooth surface. A tile tab is also added to the surface and then the frame and clay are rested upright near a fire to dry. After drying they’re popped out and stored in a wood shed to stay dry. Next they’re carefully placed inside the kiln which is then fired and hardens them into tiles. He uses broken tiles as a cover on the top. He stated that when they glow red they’re ready but this can take a day to cool off so if you’re interested, plan accordingly. When they are cool he gently places them along the timber on the roof using the tab he made which means no extra steps needed.

At this point he adds cross bracing to the base of the roof to support the added weight as well as to further secure the roof. When he’s done making tiles for the sides of the roof he has to make tiles for the top. This time the tiles have no tab and are curved after they’re molded in order to fit along the log at the top of the roof. After they dry they’re fired too and placed along the top with occasional aid using a stick. Again, this is very labor intensive. By my calculations he made between 400 – 500 tiles which takes a very long time in terms of gathering resources, framing and firing. This is where construction takes another detour from the above design. He builds a stone base along the base of the walls of the house to prevent structural weakness from an excess in moisture absorbance and digs a trench through the house. The outside also has a stone fence added along the base for this reason too.

The trench ends at the opposite ends of the house and is covered by rocks. These are then sealed on top with mud and create a heating system. A chimney is added at the rear entrance of the trench along with tiles on top to keep the rain out. More mud is caked along the stones on top to create a bed. This is necessary because if water boils on the rocks when they’re heated you will too. Next, he layers mud as a wall onto the stones at the base of the wall. He builds it up a bit and then adds a stone layer along the top of the wall and surrounds it in mud as well, embedding the stones in the wall. He continues this up the rest of the way which also has the added effect of stabilizing the wood used for the framework as well.

For the top of the doorway entry he adds a wooden lintel (some wood which crosses the wall and creates the top of the entrance) but no extra gable this time, just mud and rocks. Remember, the reason for it last time was that the walls were constructed with wood but mud is malleable and can be shaped in any way. For the door he creates a rectangular frame from trees and uses thin planks in the middle. On one side the log is longer to create a door which can be opened. He creates two small holes in the top and bottom on one side for this and demonstrates, by fitting the side into the holes, how it opens. He fortifies the base with mud as well for a doorstop. Lastly, he uses tree resin at the end of a stick for a torch to give a tour as well as using the resin on a tile for a small lamp.

Thank you for reading if you managed to reach this point. Follow Primitive Technology on YouTube, watch and share his videos, like and make sure to leave constructive comments as well as any requests you have for future videos. If you are so inclined you can also contribute to his Patreon below. Just be warned, there are no perks on his page so you’re not going to get anything out of contributing except for the support you offer him. Still, it is definitely a grand invention which allows people to explore their true interests as an actual job. I already support him and encourage you to do the same if you want to see his channel grow and become more complex.


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