What could they do Recovering the basis

Advanced tool behavior, as observed in great apes and the artifact record of Homo, is founded to only a minor extent on instincts—genetically based processes automatically released by key stimuli—and is instead derived from cognition. Thus, like all cognitively controlled behaviors, it can be stopped arbitrarily, altered by learning, and improved by experience.

The basis of cognitive behavior is the individual cognitive space (or mind), which can expand along three dimensions (O Figure 8.2): the phylogenetic, the ontogenetic, and the historical-cultural. The phylogenetic dimension of an individual's or a species' mind expresses the genetic potential derived from evolutionary processes. Phylogenetic development in human cognitive evolution can be assumed, since great apes demonstrate marked differences in cognitive behavior, regardless of whether they grew up in an intact natural group of their own species or received individual cognitive support in a modern cultural-historical environment. The cause of this development in humans may be related to

O Figure 8.2

Three dimensions of human cognitive development and the resulting cognitive space

O Figure 8.2

Three dimensions of human cognitive development and the resulting cognitive space

physical features like the increase of relative brain size (McHenry and Coffing 2000) and possible changes in brain anatomy (Eccles 1989). Genetic studies suggest other or additional possible agents, like increased gene activity in the brain (Enard et al. 2002a) or the mutation of FOXP2, a gene involved in linguistic articulation (Enard et al. 2002b); their specific roles, however, remain unclear. The exploitation of the phylogenetic potential cannot ever be assumed to reach completion because it depends on the two other factors, the ontogenetic-individ-ual and cultural-historical dimensions; therefore, even if two individuals or populations have the same phylogenetic cognitive potential, their cognitive performance as seen, for example, in artifacts may be completely different according to their cultural background and individual experiences.

The ontogenetic-individual dimension incorporates the cognitive elements originating in individual actions and experiences, be they accidental or intentional. This dimension is limited by the biological potential to think and act, given by genetic characters derived from phylogeny and is influenced by opportunities to interact with the environment. Behavioral innovations, which do not directly descend from genetic mutation, originate in this individual dimension. For the expression of the ontogenetic-individual dimension, the frame is set by the phylogenetic and the cultural-historical dimension, although individual performances may lie outside the population's mean range which is normally extrapolated from archeological data.

The cultural-historical dimension, finally, expresses the culturally fostered factor of the mind, the cognitive dimension that is most prominent in and, in its full range, exclusive to humans. This dimension is opened by the spread of innovation in behavior, not by genetic transmission, between genetically related and unrelated individuals, within and between generations. On a low level of this cultural dimension, individuals adopt a certain behavior, whose outcomes they observe in others, by emulating it until they are personally content with the result. In a real cultural setting, however, with teaching and learning between individuals and shared attention on a problem, children do not have to find solutions on their own for problems that arise but can rely on culturally stored solutions, traditions, invented by individuals in past decades, centuries, or millennia. This historically grown solution set makes up a part of the individual's environment that can be acted on and used as a basis for further innovation—the so-called Ratchet effect (Tomasello 1999). The cultural-historical dimension of the mind does not expand constantly; instead this dimension and with it the spread of innovations are strongly influenced by interdependent social parameters like intra- and intergroup communication, population density, social structures, the position of innovators in their groups, and general group-specific attitudes about learning, innovation, and progress (Rogers 1995). Factors, such as communication, that may hamper or foster the increase of the cultural dimension have their origins partially in the phylogenetic dimension, probably with language faculty or the capability to understand others as intentional actors (Tomasello 1999).

In sum, the development of the human mind and the cognitive aspects materialized in artifacts should be viewed not as an exclusively phylogenetic process with some saltational breaks in its linear progress but as an exponential expansion in the three dimensions of cognitive space, the exploitation of which is incomplete and variable. Thus, early and rare or singular expressions of a capacity like symbolic behavior—in the Late Acheulian figurine of Berekhat Ram, for instance—can be seen as proof of the phylogenetic and ontogenetic ability of the actors at that time. As a communal trait within a specific cultural-historical context, these individual expressions may only be accepted and reproduced thousands of years later.

Cognition is the main basis of what prehistoric groups did, and this is partially expressed (Section Archeology as a paleoanthropological subject) in the artifacts that have been preserved to our times. Thus artifacts are a means for detecting the cognitive background behind their creation. This is not easy. Indications of prehistoric people's cognitive potential—what they could think and do—have to be separated out from behavior compelled by the restrictions of the natural and social environment. Archeology can help to delineate the cognitive space of prehistoric groups and trace the development of the cognitive dimensions, especially the cultural-historical factor. Yet loss of evidence within the archeological record must also be factored in; it must be kept in mind that absence of evidence cannot be equated with evidence of absence and in not only material but also cognitive terms (Speth 2004). What we can detect in the archeological record is only a group's minimum cognitive potential, which has been manifested in artifacts. Cognitive faculties that are apparently unexpressed in material remains because a group did not represent these faculties, or because an archeological analyst failed to recognize them, might have been present; yet researchers can only then state the lack of indication.

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