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CDarwin

Archaeology and Evolution

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I tried mightily to articulate what I wanted to ask precisely but failed to come with anything intelligible. So, in bullet form, here's the situation archaeologically in early to middle Pleistocene:

 

Mode 1, also called Oldowan, technology originated in Homo habilis, but persisted in H. ergaster, and is the only industry associated with H. erectus (outside Africa), H. georgicus (controversial species some consider H. ergaster), and the 800,000 year old fossils from Atapuerca sometimes called H. antecessor. Mode II, or Acheulean, stone tools (the hand axes are particularly famous) are associated with later H. ergaster and H. heidelbergensis (I'm going to stop with the Middle Pleistocene species because after them almost everyone begins to recognize much greater cultural flexibility).

 

Here's what some scientists think because of that: H. erectus, H. georgicus, and H. antecessor dispersed out of Africa before the invention of the Acheulean. H. heidelbergensis must have arisen in Africa (with the Bodo cranium 600 kya) then spread into Europe and for brief periods East Asia (the Dali cranium), bringing with it Acheulean tools, instead of evolving from Oldowan-bound H. antecessor and gaining Mode II technology through cultural diffusion from Africa. Others think such technological diffusion was occurring between species and map out the dispersal patterns differently.

 

So, do you think it's reasonable to suppose the early members of our genus were culturally sophisticated enough for that kind of diffusion? Do you think cross-species diffusion to even be likely? (It did in fact happen between later H. sapiens and Neanderthals, although they were obviously much more sophisticated species.) You'll have to fill in the gaps in my communication yourselves, I'm afraid, but I thought some people on here might have interesting opinions.

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So, do you think it's reasonable to suppose the early members of our genus were culturally sophisticated enough for that kind of diffusion? Do you think cross-species diffusion to even be likely?

 

Why would they need cultural sophistication? I'm pretty sure that cross-genus diffusion of information is well-understood, even by kids watching monkeys in the zoo make faces at them.

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Why would they need cultural sophistication? I'm pretty sure that cross-genus diffusion of information is well-understood, even by kids watching monkeys in the zoo make faces at them.

 

They don't have to traverse continents with that information, though. Taking Achuelean axes from Africa to Europe would require several generations of passing down the techniques, especially since these groups wouldn't have been marching to Europe deterministically.

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My knowledge on this area is slim at best. My question is - how similar are the tools of these species between continents or regions? Is there the possibility that these particular tools are formed in a logical succession - that is, that the development of the axe was likely to happen within a species because of environmental needs and/or psychological adaptations? From an evolutionary perspective, we see examples of this repeatedly - called "convergent evolution" - where separate and sometimes completely unrelated species or groups evolve very similar body plans in response to their environments. Could it be that these early hominids, at some point, were predisposed to invent these technologies?

 

On another related note - how similar are the materials being used between different groups? You could support an argument for the trade of technologies if you find that the materials being used are not common in all areas. I would think that early tools would primarily be made out of necessity and with the most convenient resources at hand. If tools a continent apart show a clear geographic path using the same materials, and some of the groups live in areas without that particular resource, there's your evidence of physical trade. If it's a specific technique, like a specific form of flint knapping that is contrary to natural cleavage of the rock, that would seem to be more culturally driven and is most likely societal trade.

 

Any additional thoughts on your part..?

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