Before Farming

Behaviourally modern at 300,000 BP

was my ancestor brighter than yours?

Before Farming (2006), 2006, (2), 1–9.

Abstract

When did behavioural modernity first emerge from a symbolic point of view? Many researchers place the date at 40,000, 60,000, 80,000 or, at the earliest, 100,000 years ago. In this paper it is argued that the earliest surviving evidence actually dates to between 300,000 to 400,000 years ago, with some roots of behavioural modernity even earlier. It also is argued that our view of the past has been distorted by the spurious nature of the archaeological record, political and historical bias and the idea that major cultural evolution occurred via revolutions and explosions rather than gradual development accelerated through cross-cultural exchange. Climate change undoubtedly played a role in shaping and defining the human animal but it is the cultural consequences of climate change that need better evaluation and articulation. Indeed, the hypothesis that major climate change beginning about 340,000 years ago was pivotal for accentuating modern behavioural development is advocated as worthy of exploration and testing. It is concluded that long distance contact and exchange between archaic humans fuelled the development of symbolic communication and identity, with mineral pigments integral to the process.

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Taçon, Paul