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J Anthropol Sci. 2015 Jul 20;93:43-70. doi: 10.4436/JASS.93011.

The Nature of Culture: an eight-grade model for the evolution and expansion of cultural capacities in hominins and other animals.

Author information

1
Research Center "The Role of Culture in Early Expansions of Humans" of the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Senckenberg Research Institute, Senckenberganlage 25, 60325 Frankfurt, Germany; Research Center "The Role of Culture in Early Expansions of Humans" of the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, Rümelinstr. 23, 72070 Tëbingen, Germany, miriam.haidle@uni-tuebingen.de, mhaidle@senckenberg.de.
2
Research Center "The Role of Culture in Early Expansions of Humans" of the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, Rümelinstr. 23, 72070 Tübingen, Germany.
3
Human Evolutionary Studies Program and Department of Archaeology, Simon Fraser University, 8888 University Drive, Burnaby, British Columbia, V5A 1S6, Canada; Department of Archaeology, University of Aberdeen, St Mary's Building, Elphinstone Road, Aberdeen, AB24 3UF, UK.
4
Institut für Ur- und Frühgeschichte und Archäologie des Mittelalters, Abt. Ältere Urgeschichte und Quartärökologie, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, Schloss, Burgsteige 11, 72070 Tübingen, Germany.
5
Department of Anthropology and Development Studies, University of Johannesburg, PO Box 524, Auckland Park Campus, Johannesburg 2006, South Africa; Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS), Wallenberg Research Centre at Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch 7600, South Africa.
6
Department of Anthropology, University of Victoria, P.O. Box 3050, STN CSC, Victoria, BC Canada, V8W 3P5.
7
School of Psychology, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK; Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Deutscher Platz 6, 04103 Leipzig, Germany.
8
Centre for Social Learning and Cognitive Evolution, School of Psychology & Neuroscience, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, KY16 9JP, UK.

Abstract

Tracing the evolution of human culture through time is arguably one of the most controversial and complex scholarly endeavors, and a broad evolutionary analysis of how symbolic, linguistic, and cultural capacities emerged and developed in our species is lacking. Here we present a model that, in broad terms, aims to explain the evolution and portray the expansion of human cultural capacities (the EECC model), that can be used as a point of departure for further multidisciplinary discussion and more detailed investigation. The EECC model is designed to be flexible, and can be refined to accommodate future archaeological, paleoanthropological, genetic or evolutionary psychology/behavioral analyses and discoveries. Our proposed concept of cultural behavior differentiates between empirically traceable behavioral performances and behavioral capacities that are theoretical constructs. Based largely on archaeological data (the 'black box' that most directly opens up hominin cultural evolution), and on the extension of observable problem-solution distances, we identify eight grades of cultural capacity. Each of these grades is considered within evolutionary-biological and historical-social trajectories. Importantly, the model does not imply an inevitable progression, but focuses on expansion of cultural capacities based on the integration of earlier achievements. We conclude that there is not a single cultural capacity or a single set of abilities that enabled human culture; rather, several grades of cultural capacity in animals and hominins expanded during our evolution to shape who we are today.

PMID:
26196109
DOI:
10.4436/JASS.93011
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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