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Gabriel Almeida

Instructor: Christine Malcom

SOCSCI 3812-001: Prehistoric Archaeology
November 1, 2016
Approaching the problem of cognitive science with the broader
characterization we might want to define its goal, together with Ian
Davidson (2010), as the discover [of] the representational and
computational capacities of the human mind and their structural and
functional realization in the human brain. (p. 214) To refer these
studies against the background of biological and cultural evolution of
primates, hominids and humans as preserved by the material culture
can be called archeology of cognition. These changes explored
diachronically are referred as cognitive evolution. Finally, when talking
about cognitive evolution in the timeline that concerns prehistoric
archeology, specific questions are to be addressed: How does hominid
and humans cognition evolved? What are the similarities and
differences in cognition that underlie human and nonhuman primate
tool behavior? (Davidson, 2011, p. 2) and, more important for this
paper, how it can be visible with current tools of archeological
investigation? The present paper will investigate how cognitive
evolution has been extrapolated from the evidence of stone-tool
making, what is the relationship between cognitive evolution, language
evolution and stone-tool making, how are the former being inferred
from the latter and under what grounds.
Thus, the categories to be considered are: on the one hand stone-tool
making, which is the only actual archeological evidence; language
which currently presents evidence for three types of coevolutionary
interaction with stone-tool making involving shared neural substrates,
shared social context, and shared reliance on general capacities.
(Stout, p. 159) Due to the space of this paper we will just treat its
interaction as dependable upon a shared social context. One of the
most problematic backdrops the investigation of cognitive evolution
has to face is the explanation of brain size/changes. Some of the most
misleading aspects that continue in the form this data is investigated
are the presentation of evidence often in terms of the summary
statistics for particular species rather than patterns of variation
through time for individual specimens. (Davidson, 2010, p.216) The
problem with this approach is that by focusing in quantitative changes
rather than specifically where these changes happen in the skull
morphology is ignoring the real issue. Imprecise dating of these

changes just complicates its possibility of being a useful reference

In terms of brain development, the social brain hypothesis has
suggested that the selection for cognition is present only when the
social relationships in large groups are particularly demanding.
(Davidson, 2010, p. 218) Additionally, the fact that the main differential
factor between human and non-human brain size is ontogenetic rather
than phylogenetic, with the notable increase on post-natal
encephalization, and thus, infant dependency, point to the existence of
a social structure from which these products emerge. Thus, social brain
hypothesis argues for models of the mind that should be about the
whole of cognition in its social and material contexts and not just the
inner working of the brain. (Davidson, 2010, p. 219) In terms of
language and tool making skills this seems relevant as it takes us
beyond chicken-egg problems, towards questions of interaction and
coevolution. Tomasello remain us that the principal selective context
for changes in cognition and brain size was the need for children to
learn to make and use artifacts (Tomasello, as qtd in Davidson, 2010,
p. 219). Moreover, Stout (2011) argues that cultural learning facilitates
human acquisition of complex skill by involving mental state attribution
and joint attention. Cultural learning interrelates with language as it
relied on shared attention to particular task features and
causal/intentional understanding of technical and communicative
actions (p. 175). However, the question remains on how to identify the
relevant characteristics of culture given that by some criteria, tool
production by early hominids might not define their behavior as
cultural. (Davidson, 2010, 218) Thus, the question still remains (1) To
what extent can the features of brain architecture or function be
associated with particular types of mental function in living humans in
these case the functions corresponding stone-tool making and
language. (2) Can arguments be constructed about the brain
architecture and function, and hence of the mental function of human
ancestor and hominids; (3) is it possible to develop an argument about
the evolution from the conditions identified in (2) (which are the least
well defined) to the conditions identified in (1) (which are investigable)
(Davidson, 2010, 218).
What is being proposed is a statement of language as another tool
dependable upon emulative learning and brain development
concerned with such learning. As it is implicit from the methodology of
archeology as a science this is dependable on the material culture
recollected, in these case, stone tools. In that case, through the study
of its process we can hypothesize necessary structures that might
underline its changes and try to get proves for this in other set of
material culture. The shift from objects to process should take

archeology away from question of firsts, towards looking at interaction

and unapparent relationship through which the past might show us the
basic modes through which humans were in the past. Interaction
between language and tool making are far from being totally defined,
as the mediation of cultural learning makes both contingents until
further investigation.

Davidson, Iain.(2010)."The Archeology of Cognitive Evolution."

Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science 1.2: 214-29.

Davidson, lain. (2011). Introduction Stone Tools and the Evolution

of Human Cognition, edited by April Nowell & Iain Davidson,
2010. Boulder (CO): University Press of Colorado. ISBN 978-16073-2030-2. Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 21(01), 143145. doi:10.1017/s0959774311000126

Stout, D. (2011). Possible Relations between Language and

Technology in Human Evolution. Stone Tools and the Evolution of
Human Cognition, edited by April Nowell & Iain Davidson, 2010.
Boulder (CO): University Press of Colorado. ISBN 978-1-60732030-2 Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 21(01), 143-145.