How is it that a tall, large-brained type of early human, living on the African plains many millennia ago, began to make tools and to use symbols in ways that would eventually revolutionise life on the planet? And how did these early developments set in motion trains of events that today seem to be hurtling towards an endgame over which we seem to have little control? In order to understand the initial stages of this process, we need to glance backwards, with Merlin Donald, into our evolutionary history:

The last stage in the encephalisation of hominids came with the arrival of homo sapiens, about 200,000 to 100,000 years ago. The final increase in brain size entailed a further increment of about 20% in overall brain volume. At the same time, there was a continuous acceleration of the rate of cultural change. … However, around 100,000 years ago … toolmaking became gradually more refined, until it was revolutionised in the Mesolithic and Neolithic cultures. The correlation with brain size breaks down during this period; cultural change, once it began to accelerate, proceeded without any further change in brain size or, as far as can be determined, brain structure. … Ritual, art, myth and social organisations developed and flourished in rapid succession. A new cognitive factor had obviously been introduced into the equation. The human capacity for continuous innovation and cultural change became our most prominent characteristic.1


Emergent Property Brain Size Industrial System Symbolic System Stone Tool 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© David W. Kidner 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • David W. Kidner
    • 1
  1. 1.Nottingham Trent UniversityUK

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