© 2009 admin

ice age evolution

“While neurological memory is a process of internally representing an experienced reality, over the course of hominid biocultural evolution two new media of representation developed which rendered memory external to the individual human organism. Leroi-Gourhan recognized more than thirty years ago that speech and gesture. were parallel expressions of the human brain, which rendered public for the first time the electro-chemical representations of individuals…

Most archaeologists believe that ancient tools such as handaxes, side scrapers, cleavers and choppers were forms that ancient hominids sought to achieve, and that over time they developed the neuro-motor capacity for more and more complicated chaines opĂ©ratoires. These more complex chaines opĂ©ratoires are a clear indication of greater and greater capacity for habitual memory representations. However, an evolutionary transformation occurred around 40,000 years ago that Leroi-Gourhan labeled the “origin of graphism.” Humans melded gestures and tools into techniques for creating representations external to the individual organism. Mental representations were transformed into material ones; and these representations operated not in the vocal-auditory channel , but in the formal-visual and material-tactile channel. In the same way that speech led to shared vocal representations, gesture was used to construct shared material representations.

The consequences of durable, material representations for human culture were enormous. Material objects last long after the act of their creation. They continue to carry meaning in the absence of the person who created them. They accumulate histories of their own, which enhance their power and meaning by linking them to ancestors . The materials from which they are constructed, and the knowledge and techniques employed in their production can be manipulated for profound visual and tactile effect…

In sum, material images, whether in the form of carefully constructed costumes on human bodies or arrangements of painted animals in mysterious underground settings, were powerful devices for the codification, storage and transfer from one generation to the next of complex bodies of cultural knowledge. Like neurological memories, material images were sufficiently structured, redundant and predictable to serve as a mnemonic infrastructure for Upper Paleolithic cultural systems. At the same time, they were sufficiently ambiguous as to be reworked, recontextualized and reinterpreted with each encounter, and in relation to changing historical and environmental circumstances of the late Ice Age.”

from “Representation and the Evolution of Cultural Memory” by Randall White

“Lethal warfare drove the evolution of altruistic behaviour among ancient humans, claims a new study based on archaeological records and mathematical simulations.

If correct, the new model solves a long-standing puzzle in human evolution: how did our species transition from creatures interested in little more than passing down their own genes to societies of (generally) law-abiding (mostly) monogamists?

No one knows for sure when these changes happened, but climactic swings that occurred between approximately 10,000 to 150,000 years ago in the late Pleistocene period may have pushed once-isolated bands of hunter-gatherers into more frequent contact with one another, says Samuel Bowles, an evolutionary biologist at the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico and the University of Siena, Italy, who led the study. “I think that’s just a recipe for high-level conflict.”

By warfare, Bowles isn’t talking about highly organised contests between nation-states and their armies. Rather, this period of warfare was probably characterised by ongoing skirmishes between neighbouring populations.

Read more at The New Scientist

Comments are closed.