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Hominin cognitive and behavioural complexity in the Pleistocene: assessment through identity, intentionality and visual display

Cole, James Nathan (2011) Hominin cognitive and behavioural complexity in the Pleistocene: assessment through identity, intentionality and visual display University of Southampton, Department of Archaeology, Doctoral Thesis , 653pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)


The Social Brian Hypothesis predicts the cognitive ability of hominin species by utilising estimated brain and group sizes in relation to an ordinal scale of cognitive complexity expressed as orders of intentionality. The Social Brain Hypothesis predictions however, have never been correlated to the archaeological behavioural record in order to ascertain their behavioural validity. This thesis is concerned with testing the cognitive predictions of the Social Brain Hypothesis against the material culture evidence of hominin behaviour through a new theoretical construct termed the Identity Model. The Identity Model offers a theoretical perspective on the construction of individual and group identity through the Palaeolithic linked to a scale of cognitive complexity shared by the Social Brain Hypothesis. Embedded within the Identity Model are the notions that material culture / behaviour could be imbued with culturally significant social meaning once the ability to construct proxies had been achieved, this in turn feeds into the development of language from non-linguistic societies based on visual display to fully grammatical syntax. Using technological modes and widely held beliefs within the academic community relating to hominin behavioural practice and artefact manufacture as a heuristic, the Identity Model (and through the orders of intentionality, the Social Brain Hypothesis) has been related to the archaeological record, and the predictions preliminarily tested though a series of eleven case studies stretching circa 600,000 – 24,000 years before present. The results of the lithic analysis show that despite common perception (and the Social Brain Hypothesis predictions on cognitive potential), the use of lithic artefacts in actively negotiating hominin social relationships may not have had their genesis with the mode 2 (Acheulean) biface, but rather may be more securely associated with mode 3 prepared core technologies and the advent of the composite tool and pigment use. This in turn intimates that the Social Brain Hypothesis predicts the potential cognitive ability of ancient hominin species whilst the archaeology, through the filter of the Identity Model, illustrates the realised cognitive ability, and the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Based on the results and discussions of this thesis, it would appear that cognitive potential must therefore be in place before it can be realised, further suggesting that hominin physiological changes must occur before behavioural changes become evident within the archaeological record.

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Published date: March 2011
Organisations: University of Southampton, Faculty of Humanities


Local EPrints ID: 209627
PURE UUID: 52dfa5a6-716e-4de9-9b3c-68089c9e8f48

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Date deposited: 15 Feb 2012 16:24
Last modified: 18 Jul 2017 10:46

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Author: James Nathan Cole
Thesis advisor: John Mcnabb

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