Human Evolution - Transition To Behavioral Modernity

Transition To Behavioral Modernity

See also: Behavioral modernity

Until about 50,000–40,000 years ago the use of stone tools seems to have progressed stepwise. Each phase (H. habilis, H. ergaster, H. neanderthalensis) started at a higher level than the previous one, but after each phase started, further development was slow. Currently paleoanthropologists are debating whether these Homo species possessed some or many of the cultural and behavioral traits associated with modern humans such as language, complex symbolic thinking, technological creativity etc. It seems that they were culturally conservative maintaining simple technologies and foraging patterns over very long periods. Around 50,000 BP modern human culture started to evolve more rapidly. The transition to behavioral modernity has been characterized as a "Great Leap Forward", or as the "Upper Palaeolithic Revolution", because of the sudden appearance of distinctive signs of modern behavior in the archaeological record. Some scholars consider the transition to have been more gradual, with some features already appearing among Archaic Homo sapiens already around 200,000 years ago.

Modern humans started burying their dead, using animal hides to make clothing, hunting with more sophisticated techniques (such as using trapping pits or driving animals off cliffs), and engaging in cave painting. As human culture advanced, different populations of humans introduced novelty to existing technologies: artifacts such as fish hooks, buttons and bone needles show signs of variation among different populations of humans, something that had not been seen in human cultures prior to 50,000 BP. Typically, H. neanderthalensis populations do not vary in their technologies.

Among concrete examples of Modern human behavior, anthropologists include specialization of tools, use of jewellery and images (such as cave drawings), organization of living space, rituals (for example, burials with grave gifts), specialized hunting techniques, exploration of less hospitable geographical areas, and barter trade networks. Debate continues as to whether a "revolution" led to modern humans ("the big bang of human consciousness"), or whether the evolution was more gradual.

Read more about this topic:  Human Evolution

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