UConn Anthropology Department alumnus, David Leslie, is co-author of a new paper published in Science Magazine that examines evidence of symbolic and technological innovation of early Homo sapiens at a series of Middle Stone Age sites in southern Kenya. The evidence shows that hominins at the sites dating to around 320 years ago made prepare cored and points, and extracted red pigments from iron-rich rocks. This evidence has important implications for the social and cognitive evolution of humans
Moralistic gods, supernatural punishment and the expansion of human sociality
Benjamin Grant Purzycki, Coren Apicella, Quentin D. Atkinson, Emma Cohen, Rita Anne McNamara, Aiyana K. Willard, Dimitris Xygalatas, Ara Norenzayan & Joseph Henrich
Since the origins of agriculture, the scale of human cooperation and societal complexity has dramatically expanded. This fact challenges standard evolutionary explanations of prosociality because well-studied mechanisms of cooperation based on genetic relatedness, reciprocity and partner choice falter as people increasingly engage in fleeting transactions with genetically unrelated strangers in large anonymous groups. To explain this rapid expansion of prosociality, researchers have proposed several mechanisms. Here we focus on one key hypothesis: cognitive representations of gods as increasingly knowledgeable and punitive, and who sanction violators of interpersonal social norms, foster and sustain the expansion of cooperation, trust and fairness towards co-religionist strangers….
The Late Middle Pleistocene (130,000–425,000years ago) was a period of profound biological and behavioral change among ancient humans that witnessed the evolution of our species, Homo sapiens in Africa and our close cousins the Neanderthals in Eurasia. These biological changes were accompanied by important changes in stone tool technology, most notably the gradual replacement of large cutting tools and hand axes by tools produced by an innovative flaking method. During 2008 and 2009, Dr. Adler and his team excavated over 3,000 artifacts produced by both methods. These artifacts chart the earliest transition from the Lower Palaeolithic to the Middle Palaeolithic between 325,000–335,000 years ago. These results are significant because they support the idea that changes in human technology resulted from a common technological ancestry rather than the expansion from Africa of a particular human species armed with a new innovative technology.
The Connecticut State Museum of Natural History, part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at UConn, presents “Ancient Human Evolution During the Late Middle Pleistocene in Armenia,” a lecture by Dr. Daniel Adler, UConn Department of Anthropology. The lecture will be held at the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History on the UConn Storrs Campus, Sunday, December 6, at 1 pm.
This program is free and advanced registration is not required. For more information, contact: Natural History Museum at 860.486.4460
An interview with Daniel Adler in Science News about stone-tool making:
Imagine if tens of thousands of years from now, archaeologists were to dig up a pile of wrecked, 20th century cars and try to figure out what people did with the strange-looking things. After measuring soil-encrusted automobile shells and scattered engine innards, the researchers might well announce the discovery of ancient religious altars. Support for their interpretation would come from fragments of 20th century texts describing widespread car worship. Eminent scientists might propose that basic altars were made in a city called Detroit before being modified by their owners into objects suitable for worship. A flood of publications would sort the artifacts into categories of altars based on the presence or absence of tail fins and roof racks…
Daniel Adler discusses the implications for our understanding of the spread of anicent technologies out of Africa after finding a mixture of ~300,000 year-old stone tools in Armenia.
Congratulations to Peter Leach for his Science paper!
Paleoindian settlement of the high-altitude Peruvian Andes
Kurt Rademaker, Gregory Hodgins, Katherine Moore, Sonia Zarrillo, Christopher Miller, Gordon R. M. Bromley, Peter Leach, David A. Reid, Willy Yépez Álvarez, Daniel H. Sandweiss
Study of human adaptation to extreme environments is important for understanding our cultural and genetic capacity for survival. The Pucuncho Basin in the southern Peruvian Andes contains the highest-altitude Pleistocene archaeological sites yet identified in the world, about 900 meters above confidently dated contemporary sites. The Pucuncho workshop site [4355 meters above sea level (masl)] includes two fishtail projectile points, which date to about 12.8 to 11.5 thousand years ago (ka). Cuncaicha rock shelter (4480 masl) has a robust, well-preserved, and well-dated occupation sequence spanning the past 12.4 thousand years (ky), with 21 dates older than 11.5 ka. Our results demonstrate that despite cold temperatures and low-oxygen conditions, hunter-gatherers colonized extreme high-altitude Andean environments in the Terminal Pleistocene, within about 2 ky of the initial entry of humans to South America.