Beyond the Tools: social innovation and hominin evolution

This source preferred by Fiona Coward

Authors: Coward, F. and Grove, M.

Editors: Fluck, H., MacDonald, K. and Uomini, N.

Journal: PalaeoAnthropology

Volume: 2011

Pages: 111-129

DOI: 10.4207/PA.2011.ART46

Archaeological interest in innovation traditionally focuses on creativity in material culture and, in the case of the Paleolithic, particularly on the changing morphology of stone tools. However, this is only one result of a constellation of innovative processes that occur both between and within hominin groups evolving towards the unique modern human lifeway. The adaptations scaffolding such innovative processes include not only the cognitive mechanisms and biological and skeletal adaptations that underpin technological innovation and cultural transmission, but also the behavioral strategies pursued by hominin groups and individuals. In this paper, we draw from a Social Brain approach to argue that it is hominins’ innovative social and group-oriented behavioral strategies that drive technological developments and distinguish us from other primates. A variety of models and methodologies developed to investigate the interrelationships between the crucial ecological, social, and behavioral variables are reviewed here for an archaeological audience in order to stimulate research to test and refine these models with archaeological data.

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