N°73 - 2020/2

The emergence of human cognition

De Beaune Sophie
This special issue (n°73) of the journal Intellectica is co-ordinated by Sophie A. de Beaune, Professor at Jean Moulin Lyon 3 University and researcher at UMR 7041 Archéologies et Sciences de l’Antiquité, Nanterre.

Argument :
Cognitive archeology is concerned with the development of cognitive capacities in the most ancient hominids, which lead to the emergence of Homo sapiens. In itself, this constitutes a vast field of research. For example, what is the relationship between the making of tools and cognitive faculties ? When and how did language appear ? What was the social context which allowed for the emergence of co-operative behaviour in hunting and dwelling ? All these questions deserve systematic exploration if we wish to understand the emergence of our own species and the emergence of modern man.
A first possible way of approaching the question of the cognition of the first hominids is to start from the archeological remains that they have left behind them. The study of these data, and in particular their sets of tools, makes it possible to demonstrate their possession of cognitive aptitudes such as planning an action with deferred gratification, abstraction, multi-task capacities, the use of analogical reasoning, the ability to mentally move objects in space, to mark the identity iof an individual or a group in the material culture, and so on. It is also possible to account for the complexification of technical operations carried out by ancient hominids on the basis of the steps in siolving problems and their evolution.
A second way concerns the fossils themselves, which inform us about the increase in cranial capacity since the first hominid forms up to modern man, and about the evolution of the form of the brain based on endocasts.
A third way, promising but to date little exploited, consists of deploying the resources of modern neuroscience. Functional brain imaging addresses the question of the cognitive resources necessary for realizing the human productions of the Paleolithic and the cerebral substrate of these capacities. To do this, it is necessary to pass by comparisons with contemporary humans by means of modern experimentators.
A fourth way passes by primatology and cognitive ethology. This research aims at identifying continuities and discontinuities between human and non-human primates, both at the level of their behaviours and that of their manual skills as well as their « mental faculties ». The objective of such approaches is to demonstrate the cognitive traits in place before and after the separation between the branches of the great apes and hominids.
On pain of being mere speculation, the cog itibe approach to human behaviours must be based on data as solid as those used by archeologists studying subsistence activies. This is why the aim of this special issue is to present, not speculative models of evolution, but methods of approach which are based on factual data from the fields of archeology, paleoanthropology, neurology, ethology and so on, so as to address in a very concrete way the question of the emergence of modern man, and the evolution of the hominids who preceded him.
The articles published by Intellectica, in French or in English, are not highly technical so that they can be read by a wide range of readers having already a certain acquaintance with the domain. The articles have an epistemological character, and attempt to give an account of the main tendencies around the theme in question. Potential authors can consult the online archives of Intellectica to see the sort of article that the journal has published over the years (http://intellectica.org/fr/numeros).

Please send you manuscript (or your questions) to : soumission@intellectica.org
Instructions for authors : http://intellectica.org/fr/auteurs
Deadline : 15 janvier 2020

Indicative references

Sophie A. de Beaune, The Invention of technology: Prehistory and cognition, Current Anthropology vol. 45, n° 2, 2004, p. 139-162.
Sophie A. de Beaune, Frederick L. Coolidge, Thomas Wynn (dir.), Cognitive Archaeology and Human Evolution, New York, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2009.
John L. Bradshaw, Human Evolution. A Neuropsychological Perspective, London, New York, Psychology Press Ltd, Taylor & Francis Group, 1997.
Richard Byrne, The Thinking Ape. Evolutionary Origins of Intelligence, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1995.
Frederick L. Coolidge & Karenleigh A. Overmann (dir.), Squeezing Minds from Stones: Cognitive Archaeology & the Evolution of the Human Mind, Oxford University Press, 2019.
Peter Gärdenfors, How Homo became sapiens, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2004.
Kathleen R. Gibson & Tim Ingold, Tools, Language and Cognition in Human Evolution, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1993.
Jean-Jacques Hublin, Evolution of the human brain and comparative paleoanthropology, in Stéphane Dehaene et al., From monkey brain to human brain, Oxford University Press, Fyssen Foundation Series, 2005, p. 57-71.
Steven Mithen, The Prehistory of the Mind. The Cognitive Origins of Art and Science, London, Thames and Hudson, 1996.
William Noble & Iain Davidson, Human Evolution, Language and Mind. A Psychological and Archaeological Inquiry, Cambridge, Cambridge University press, 1996.
Sue T. Parker & Michael L. McKinney, Origins of Intelligence. The Evolution of Cognitive Development in Monkeys, Apes and Humans, Baltimore and London, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999.
René Treuil (dir.), L’archéologie cognitive. Techniques, modes de communication, mentalités, Paris, éd. de la Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, 2011.
Dietrich Stout & Thierry Chaminade, The evolutionary neuroscience of toolmaking, Neuropsychologica 45, 1091–1100, 2007 (doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2006.09.014).
Michael Tomasello, The Cultural Origins of Human Cognition, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1999.