Programmes > Par auteur > Andersson Claes

Theoretical expectations of geographic and ecological cultural patterns in archaic Homo
Claes Andersson  1, *@  
1 : Chalmers University of Technology [Göteborg]  -  Site web
SE-412 96 Göteborg, Sweden -  Suède
* : Auteur correspondant

Archaeology presents Homo culture as much less regionalized and patterning than more recent Homo. Emerging knowledge about cultural traditions in Pan suggests that preserving traces of culture probably represent only a small fraction of the actual cultural repertoire of early Homo. We here present an exploration of the possibility of forming at least qualitative expectations about what early Homo cultural heterogeneity might have looked like. To this end we implement and use a simulation model based on the assumption of continuity between Homo community dynamics and that of ancestral hominins, which we assume to be broadly similar to present-day Pan. That is, that they maintained a variety of material and non-material cultural traditions, and that they lived in ecologically competing fission-fusion communities, coordinated by face-to-face contacts that underwent fission if their sizes exceeded the limit of what cognitive capabilities permitted them to maintain stably.

Several features of the interaction between traditions and communities in Pan appear to be sufficiently general to bear extrapolation as long as the questions that we pose are sufficiently general. We have already outlined the basic kinetic of community lifecycle above, which we will argue is likely to be robust in its basic outline. Another feature that we argue is robust is that a strict compartmentalization of social networks within communities leads to a strong vertical channeling effect of culture. Cultural transmission demands close and prolonged social intimacy, which obtains within but not between communities. This suggests that horizontal transmission on the community level is likely a derived feature in late Homo and demands sophisticated institutions and cognitive capacities.

Certain systematic differences between early Homo and recent Pan will also be inferred. Homo relied on quite specific services of certain cultural traditions to a higher degree than Pan does. While some Pan traditions have been found to be adaptive, they do not rely essentially on any single tradition. By contrast, Homo is likely to have relied critically on technology and strategies that enabled them to obtain and process large carcasses.

Selection on cultural variants in Homo was thereby likely much more differentiated across the range of cultural traditions maintained than what is the case in Pan. Some traditions would be highly variable while others would be very strongly selected. The geographical extent of applicability of specific types of traditions also likely varied. If a tradition had an environmental target, such as a type of resource, the regional distribution of this resource would limit the potential for such traditions to spread.

The model simulates a geographically explicit community dynamics driven by interaction between the hominins in the community and the environment via the application of a collection of cultural traditions formed by innovation and maintained by cultural transmission. In this platform, we vary parameters and ontological assumptions to explore the patterns and phenomena that are generated. We will explore the effects of varying the dominance of vertical over horizontal transmission, selection pressure across the range of maintained traditions, and landscape heterogeneities such as resource distributions and geographical barriers.

Our hypothesis is that traditions that are of universal applicability, and that are subject to strong selection, will be highly stable so that founder effects in waves of expansion will create large swathes of homogeneity. This is what we see as corresponding to the weak regionalization of early lithic technology. We think these will be overlaid with increasingly fine structures of variability in traditions that are uniquely aimed at environmentally heterogeneous features, and culture where the specific details are more arbitrary, such as social conventions. These may be very challenging, or even impossible, to detect empirically, and we hope to generate a basis for discussing how and whether that would be possible.


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