Origins of symbolic behavior
Henshilwood, Christopher Department of Archeology, History, Cultural Studies and Religion, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway.
- What is symbolic material culture?
- Models for the origins of symbolic behavior
- Archeological evidence for symbolic behavior
- Links to Primary Literature
- Additional Readings
A central focus of the discussions surrounding the behavioral origins of Homo sapiens in Africa and Eurasia has been when and where our ancestors first behaved in ways similar to ourselves. A term commonly used in the literature to describe this process is modern human behavior. It can be defined as behavior that is mediated by socially constructed patterns of symbolic thinking, actions, and communication that allow for material and information exchange and cultural continuity between and across generations and contemporaneous communities. The capacity for symbolic thought is not the key defining factor for modern human behavior; rather, it is the use of symbolism to organize behavior. In other words, early humans were first behaviorally modern when symbols became an intrinsic part of their daily lives.
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