Hostname: page-component-5d59c44645-hb754 Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-02-22T09:37:18.513Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Recognizing Complex Cognition through Innovative Technology in Stone Age and Palaeolithic Sites

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2013

Lyn Wadley*
School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies & Institute for Human Evolution, University of the Witwatersrand, PO WITS 2050, South Africa Email:


Cognitive complexity is defined here as the capacity for abstract thought, analogical reasoning, cognitive fluidity, innovative thought, complex goal-directed actions, flexibility in problem-solving, multi-tasking, task switching, response inhibition and planning over long distances or time. Some of these attributes are archaeologically recognizable in transformative technologies such as heat treatment of rocks and ochre, and the manufacture of compound adhesives and paints. Advanced executive functions of the brain are also required for remote capture during snaring, which is implied by circumstantial archaeological evidence. Some technologies seem good indicators of complex cognition and the emphasis here is on making the connection, but this does not mean that cognition necessarily drove innovation in the past any more than it does today. The recursive relationships between cognition, social behaviour and technology mean that change cannot be attributed to a single stimulus.

Copyright © The McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research 2013 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)