Accessing Hominin Cognition: Language and Social Signaling in the Lower to Middle Palaeolithic

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From an archaeological perspective, discussions on the nature of hominin evolution in regards to the development of language and cognition must also include the methods of gauging that ability from the material culture of the Palaeolithic record. In this respect, I shall summarize here a theoretical perspec-tive, the identity model (Cole, 2011, 2012, 2014a, 2014b, 2015b), which allows an assessment of the cognitive potential of ancient hominins through concepts of identity linked to visual display, material culture, and their role in hominin cognition, social communication, and language development. This chapter is intended to encourage discussion and invite debate across a number of disci-plines rather than make categorical statements on hominin cognitive capacity, language development, social constructions, or behavioral characteristics. As such, the material culture focus (and related cognitive implications for the respective hominins) shall lie primarily with the Lower Palaeolithic, specifically the Acheulean, although there shall be discussions within the model that relate to the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic. The focus on the Lower Palaeolithic is to try and shed some still much needed light on when material culture started to play a conscious and direct role in mediating social relationships both within and between hominin social groups. For many, this relates to the imposition of form and standardization often associated with the Acheulean handaxe. This chapter shall present data that question this supposition using the British Palaeolithic record as a case study. More detailed analyses and results have been presented elsewhere (Cole, 2011, 2015a, 2015b); what shall be discussed here is a summary with particular focus on the impact for how archaeologists should view the cognitive capabilities of our hominin ancestors involved in material culture production.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCognitive Models in Palaeolithic Archeology
Place of PublicationNew York.
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages39
ISBN (Print)9780190204112
Publication statusPublished - 17 Dec 2016

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