A Little Epistemology

Part of the Developments in Primatology: Progress and Prospects book series (DIPR)


For a species described as intelligent, we have not been very successful in determining what it is that made us the way we are. The popular explanation of how we became human reflects a kind of consensus view forming the dogma that orthodox archaeology has created over recent decades. That dogma will be examined critically in this book, together with the epistemological currents that have formed its conceptual framework. One fundamental question may be a little perplexing to many readers: why do specialists consider human origins almost exclusively in terms of the somatic and technological development of our species? Surely “humanness” is not so much determined by the shape of supraorbital tori (brow ridges) or the mode of retouching flint tools. Surely what most distinguish us from other primates—and other animals—are a suite of distinctly “human” attributes: for instance, the ability to “store” symbolic information outside our brain; or our development of symboling capacities to such sophistication that they made it possible to modify our physical environment (or niche) on an extraordinary scale; and to harness its resources and energies in the ultimate quest of all species—the conversion of a significant part of the planet’s biomass into themselves.


Human evolution Pleistocene archaeology Replacement hypothesis Epistemology Reality Terminology 


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.International Federation of Rock Art OrganisationsCaulfield SouthAustralia

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