How stuff made us: aesthetics, emotion and intelligence in human evolution

This source preferred by Fiona Coward

Authors: Coward, F.

Start date: 28 January 2011

How did hominins evolve from the small and intimate social groups of our primate relatives to the globally-linked communities of the modern day? Was the expansion of human social networks a gradual process, or were there step changes in prehistoric social lives, and how can archaeologists approach this issue? Many revolutions and tipping points have been identified in the archaeological record – here I will address one of these in particular, that of the ‘Neolithic revolution’ which occurred during the Epipalaeolithic and early Neolithic around 21,000 – 6,000 BC, when some groups in the Near East began to move from a mobile hunting-and-gathering way of life to a more sedentary, village-based and ultimately agricultural lifestyle. One influential theory sees these developments as a dramatic step-change in human lives, kick-starting the development of increasingly large, more permanent and ever more complex societies. In this talk I will use social network analysis to re-visit these arguments, and to place these developments into context as part of a much longer-term evolutionary trend in human social lives in which increasing engagement with material culture and its incorporation into social networks was instrumental in expanding human social horizons. Palaeolithic stone tools, then, were the Facebook and Twitter of their day.

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