Evolution of Mind, Brain, and Culture

Evolution of Mind, Brain, and Culture

Evolution of Mind, Brain, and Culture

Evolution of Mind, Brain, and Culture


Descartes boldly claimed: "I think, therefore I am." But one might well ask: Why do we think? How? When and why did our human ancestors develop language and culture? In other words, what makes the human mind human?

Evolution of Mind, Brain, and Culture offers a comprehensive and scientific investigation of these perennial questions. Fourteen essays bring together the work of archaeologists, cultural and physical anthropologists, psychologists, philosophers, geneticists, a neuroscientist, and an environmental scientist to explore the evolution of the human mind, the brain, and the human capacity for culture. The volume represents and critically engages major theoretical approaches, including Donald's stage theory, Mithen's cathedral model, Tomasello's joint intentionality, and Boyd and Richerson's modeling of the evolution of culture in relation to climate change.

No recent publication combines this breadth of evidential and theoretical perspective. The essays range in topic from the macroscopic (the evolution of social cooperation) to the microscopic (examining genetic data to infer evolutions in brain structure and function), and from the ancient (paleoanthropological reconstructions of hominin cognitive abilities) to the modern (including modern hominin's similarities to our primate cousins). Considered together, these essays constitute a fascinating, detailed look at what makes us human.


For more than a century, a core mission of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology has been to foster research that leads to new understandings about human culture. For much of the 20th century, this research took the form of worldwide expeditions that brought back both raw data and artifacts whose analysis continues to shed light on early complex societies of the New and Old Worlds. The civilizations of pharonic Egypt, Mesopotamia, Iran, Greece, Rome, Mexico, Peru, and Native Americans have been represented in galleries that display only the most remarkable of the Penn Museum’s vast holding of artifacts. These collections have long provided primary evidence of many distinct research programs engaging scholars from around the world.

As we moved into a new century, indeed a new millennium, the Penn Museum sought to reinvigorate its commitment to research focused on questions of human societies. In 2005, working with then Williams Director Richard M. Leventhal, Michael J. Kowalski, Chairman of the Board of Overseers of the Penn Museum, gave a generous gift to the Museum to seed a new program of high-level conferences designed to engage themes central to the Museum’s core research mission. According to Leventhal’s vision, generating new knowledge and frameworks for understanding requires more than raw data and collections. More than ever, it depends on collaboration among communities of scholars investigating problems using distinct . . .

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