N°73 - 2020/2

Emergence and evolution of human cognition

De Beaune Sophie
Publication in January 2021
The contributions gathered in the present issue aim at presenting the state of the art on the methods used nowadays to understand the origin and the evolution of human cognition. A better understanding of the basis of our cognition requires defining the way it emerged. Several ways are possible to address the question of the cognitive abilities of the first hominins and ancient Homo sapiens.
First, the archeological artefacts provide information about the technical procedures that lead to the creation of such artefacts and/or their initial function. These reconstructed procedures give insights into the abilities of those who created and used them: planning capabilities, mental flexibility in problem solving, the development of abstract thoughts, etc.
Fossils and their skullcap offer useful information about the shape, the volume, and the surface of their brain thanks to the digitization and 3D modelling of the endocast. A second approach consists in the experimental identification of brain areas activated during a given activity and then define the homologous area on the endocast of hominins fossils. Through the presentation of all these methods, different issues are approached in the present issue, such as the origin of articulated language and the production of tools.
Research on the ontogenesis of cognition (from birth to adulthood) are presented in present Homo sapiens and in ancient hominins. For the former, experimental approaches are used together with brain imagery or developmental robotics. The latter, digitalization and 3D modelling of the endocast of immature specimens can provide useful insights on the growth and the evolution of their cognitive abilities.
Results on animal cognition are also used to study the ontogenesis and phylogenesis of humans. This research invites us to search for the continuity and breaches between animals and humans concerning their behaviors, their motor abilities as well as their mental faculties.

1. Sophie ARCHAMBAULT de BEAUNE : Evolution of human cognition. Contributions and limitations to current approaches.
2. Lou ALBESSARD, Sophie GALLAS, Dominique GRIMAUD-HERVE : Thinking of the evolution of the human brain, from fossil object to virtual modelling
3. Antoine BALZEAU : What do we know about growth and development of the brain in prehistoric humans?
4. Mathilde SALAGNON, Francesco D’ERRICO & Emmanuel MELLET : Neuroimaging and Neuroarchaeology: a window on brain evolution
5. Amélie BEAUDET & Caroline FONTA : Human origins: tracking the human biological and cultural evolution from the study of the brain of our ancestors
6. Miriam Noël HAIDLE & Regine STOLARCZYK : Thinking tools. With cognigrams from reconstructions and interpretations to models about tool behavior
7. Lyn WADLEY : Digging Cognition: Is it Possible?
8. Lauriane RAT-FISCHER : Ontogenetic development of human cognition: fields of research, methods and perspectives
9. Ioannis Kanellos : The semantic liberty and the sens of liberty : splendors and perils of poetry madness. [Report on the book of Elena Ciobanu, Sylvia Plath’s Poetry: The Metamorphoses of the Poetic Self (éditions Demiurg, Iaşi, 2009)]
Regular paper
10. Rachid Oulahal : Autobiographical memory and cultural background