The latest publication from the Petraglia & Korisettar palaeolithic research team, working in
These two studies together represent importance counters of an orthodoxy that sees ‘modern’ behaviour as emerging once, and therefore being a great invention when hard cognitive architecture came into place, perhaps even driven by a key genetic mutation for intelligence. Such is the orthodoxy implied by classic textbooks on human evolution, such as by Richard Klein (at least as was used when I was a student) or the recent reviews by Paul Mellars (e.g. his Science paper of 2006). In this view modern humans, heir cognitive abilities and the behavioural application of those abilities emerged once (in Africa) and spread out of Africa (once) to bring intelligent modern everywhere else (perhaps at sometime between 60,000 and 40,000—depending on whether one prefers to emphasize the earliest possible dates for Australia or the Upper Palaeolithic transition in Europe). The evidence from
There is a parallel here to where thinking on agricultural origins is moving. There has long been an orthodoxy that agriculture was a great and rare invention, and that agriculture came to most regions by the migration of farmers from a few centres of the influence of a good idea. In the more extreme cases, only 3 centres of origin (
The point is that agriculture, like modern human behaviour, was not a one time great invention, but the product of social and environmental circumstances to which human groups with the same cognitive potential responded in parallel ways. The question in both cases is: what were the common denominators of those circumstances?