An epistemological investigation into the different theories on the rise of behavioural modernity in the hominin lineage.

Nathalie Gontier

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorial

Abstract

A distinction is made between the rise of anatomical and behavioural modernity.
"Anatomical modernity" is a theoretical concept defined by anthropologists (Tattersall, Schwartz, Wood, Johanson, Wolpoff, ...), that refers to a set of well-demarcated traits possessed by fossils and modern skeletons alike, such as small teeth, gracile bones, reduced prognathism, etc.
"Behavioural modernity", is an abstract notion that is introduced by archaeologists (Mellars, d'Errico, McBreaty and Brooks, Klein, Conard, Henshilwood, Zilhão, ...), but contrary to the notion of anatomical modernity, its meaning is liable to changing theories.
First, I will examine the way in which "behavioural modernity" is defined by various authors. Secondly, the different theories on the rise of behavioural modernity are examined in light of the suggested time periods in which behavioural modernity arose (400,000; 250,000 or 50,000 years ago).
It will be argued that the lack of consensus within these different theories together with the lack of scientific grounding of why certain behavioural traits are modern rather than archaic make it necessary to realize that at present adding the label "behaviourally modern" to a certain trait or species is inflicting a value judgement rather than making a scientific statement on a trait or species. Epistemological guidelines will be provided that allow one to overcome this problem.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-145
Number of pages1
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology
Volume144
Issue numberS52
Publication statusPublished - 11 Apr 2011

Keywords

  • evolutionary anthropology
  • behavioural modernity
  • anatomical modernity
  • philosophy of science

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'An epistemological investigation into the different theories on the rise of behavioural modernity in the hominin lineage.'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this