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The Human Symbolic Revolution: A Darwinian Account

  • Chris Knight (a1), Camilla Power (a2) and Ian Watts (a2)

By 50,000 years ago, the effects of a ‘symbolic explosion’ — an efflorescence of human art, song, dance and ritual — were rippling across the globe. Applied to archaeological evidence, standard neo-Darwinian theory offers new understandings of this improbable event. The present article defines ‘symbolism’, models quasi-ritual behaviour in late archaic Homo sapiens, extends the argument to the emergence of anatomically modern humans and concludes with preliminary tests against archaeological, ethnographic and rock art data.

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