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WIREs Cogn Sci
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The archeology of cognitive evolution

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Abstract This discussion of archeology of cognition is concerned primarily with the evolutionary emergence of the cognition particular to modern humans but there is an implication for the evolution of cognition among modern humans. Archeological evidence can provide important insights into the evolutionary emergence of human cognition, but theoretical considerations are fundamental in understanding what sorts of cognition there might have been between the ape‐like common ancestor and modern humans. Archeology is the only source of evidence for the behavior associated with such theoretical stages. Cognitive archeology, therefore, involves an iterative interaction between theory from outside archeology and more or less direct evidence from the past. This review considers the range of possible evidence from archeology and genetics and summarizes some of the results of analysis of nonhuman primates particularly to assess characteristics of the last common ancestor (LCA) of apes and humans. The history of changes in size and shape of the brain since separation from other apes introduces the need to assess the appropriate cognitive theories to interpret such evidence. The review concentrates on two such approaches: Baddeley's working memory model as interpreted by Coolidge and Wynn, and Barnard's interacting cognitive subsystems as it has been elaborated to define the cognitive conditions for hominins between the LCA and modern people. Most of the rest of the review considers how the evidence from stone tools might be consistent with such theoretical models of cognition. This evidence is consistent with views that modern human behavior only emerged in the last 100,000 years (or so) but it gives an explanation for that in terms of cognition. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. This article is categorized under: Cognitive Biology > Evolutionary Roots of Cognition

Variation in cranial capacity (left axis) and stature (right axis) of fossils over the course of hominin and human evolution from 3.5 million years ago to the present, showing the six stages discussed in the text.

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Two views of a bifacially flaked artifact from the Acheulean site of Slindon showing that bifacial flaking was not necessarily tied to the production of Acheulean handaxes (photo Iain Davidson courtesy of Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology).

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(a) The 7‐subsystem ICS model representing cognition of early hominins (from Barnard et al.9). (b) The 8‐subsystem ICS model representing cognition of later hominins (Reprinted with permission from Ref 9. Copyright 2007 Taylor & Francis).

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The 6‐subsystem ICS model that accounts for cognition of apes (Reprinted with permission from Ref 9. Copyright 2007 Taylor & Francis).

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Barnard's 9‐subsystem ICS model of human cognition (Reprinted with permission from Ref 9. Copyright 2007 Taylor & Francis).

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