In this paper I seek to show how cultural niche construction theory offers the potential to extend the human evolutionary story beyond the Pleistocene, through the Neolithic, towards the kind of very large-scale societies in which we live today. The study of the human past has been compartmentalised, each compartment using different analytical vocabularies, so that their accounts are written in mutually incompatible languages. In recent years social, cognitive and cultural evolutionary theories, building on a growing body of archaeological evidence, have made substantial sense of the social and cultural evolution of the genus Homo. However, specialists in this field of studies have found it difficult to extend their kind of analysis into the Holocene human world. Within southwest Asia the three or four millennia of the Neolithic period at the beginning of the Holocene represents a pivotal point, which saw the transformation of human society in the emergence of the first large-scale, permanent communities, the domestication of plants and animals, and the establishment of effective farming economies. Following the Neolithic, the pace of human social, economic and cultural evolution continued to increase. By 5000 years ago, in parts of southwest Asia and northeast Africa there were very large-scale urban societies, and the first large-scale states (kingdoms). An extension of cultural niche construction theory enables us to extend the evolutionary narrative of the Pleistocene into the Holocene, opening the way to developing a single, long-term, evolutionary account of human history.
History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences – Springer Journals
Published: Aug 14, 2017
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