Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-99c86f546-4k54s Total loading time: 0.947 Render date: 2021-11-28T03:52:03.793Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": true, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true, "newEcommerce": true, "newUsageEvents": true }

The Social Brain and the Shape of the Palaeolithic

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 January 2011

Clive Gamble
Affiliation:
Centre for Quaternary Research, Department of Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, TW20 0EX, UK, Email: Clive.Gamble@rhul.ac.uk
John Gowlett
Affiliation:
School of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology, University of Liverpool, The Hartley Building, Liverpool, L69 3GS, UK, Email: Gowlett@liv.ac.uk
Robin Dunbar
Affiliation:
Institute of Cognitive & Evolutionary Anthropology, University of Oxford, 64 Banbury Rd, Oxford, OX2 6PN, UK, Email: robin.dunbar@anthro.ox.ac.uk

Abstract

It is often the case in interdisciplinary accounts of human evolution that archaeological data are either ignored or treated superficially. This article sets out to redress this position by using archaeological evidence from the last 2.5 million years to test the social brain hypothesis (SBH) – that our social lives drove encephalization. To do this we construct a map of our evolving social complexity that concentrates on two resources – materials and emotions – that lie at the basis of all social interaction. In particular, novel cultural and biological mechanisms are seen as evolutionary responses to problems of cognitive load arising from the need to integrate more individuals and sub-units into the larger communities predicted by the SBH. The Palaeolithic evidence for the amplification of these twin resources into novel social forms is then evaluated. Here the SBH is used to differentiate three temporal movements (2.6–1.6 Ma, 1.5–0.4 Ma and 300–25 ka) and their varied evolutionary responses are described in detail. Attention is drawn to the second movement where there is an apparent disconnect between a rise in encephalization and a stasis in material culture. This disconnect is used to discuss the co-evolutionary relationship that existed between materials and emotions to solve cognitive problems but which, at different times, amplified one resource rather than the other. We conclude that the shape of the Palaeolithic is best conceived as a gradient of change rather than a set of step-like revolutions in society and culture.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research 2011

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.)
77
Cited by

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

The Social Brain and the Shape of the Palaeolithic
Available formats
×

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

The Social Brain and the Shape of the Palaeolithic
Available formats
×

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

The Social Brain and the Shape of the Palaeolithic
Available formats
×
×

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *