Fitting the ladder to the tree: A common sense view on the cognitive evolution of the Pleistocene human lineage
AbstractThe mismatch between the human paleoanthropological ‘tree’ and the paleo-cognitive ‘ladder’ has been recently attributed to epistemological biases affecting the mainstream narratives on cognitive evolution. The present paper takes issue with such a perspective and argues for a rather continuous cognitive development along the human lineage, as documented archaeologically by the early emergence of a ‘familiar’ human mind and by the cumulative features of Pleistocene cultural evolution in general. These facts seriously question the paleo-cognitive relevance of the acknowledged branchy taxonomy and point strongly towards a more anagenetic view on human biological evolution. Moreover, as the prerequisites for complex behavior and a consistent ability for cultural transmission were already among the capacities of the Homo erectus grade, the scope of further major cognitive changes, as usually invoked in connection to the emergence of Homo sapiens sapiens, appears limited.
Keywords: Paleolithic, cognition, paleoanthropology, cultural evolution, Homo erectus.