Behavioral Modernity

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Defining behavioral modernity depends on the consideration that behaviorally modern traits are based off of records derived from Western Europe during the Middle Paleolithic and Upper Paleolithic eras (Nowell 2010: 440). Therefore, they are not universal and there has been considerable protest against applying them universally because these traits do not hold true for Africa at this same time period. It is because of this distinction that this paper will focus on behavioral modernity in the genus Homo as directly associated with the application of symbolic behaviors and technological innovativeness. McBrearty and Brooks (2000) suggest that behavior drove the anatomical changes seen in the archaeological record, and that behaviors developed gradually over time and space. They list four characteristics that are inherently modern behaviors: [1] Abstract thinking, the ability to act with reference to abstract concepts not limited in time or space. [2] Planning depth, the ability to formulate strategies based on past experience and to act upon them in a group context. [3] Behavioral, economic and technological innovativeness.[4] Symbolic behavior, the ability to represent objects, people, and abstract concepts with arbitrary symbols, vocal or visual, and to reify such symbols in cultural practice [McBrearty & Brooks 2000:492].

It is this last trait (symbolic behavior) that the majority of scholars define as modern behavior (Nowell 2010: 441), however some like Mellars (1989) place emphasis on technological innovativeness. The archaeological evidence of these traits can be divided into four groups: ecology, technology, economic and social organization, and symbolic behavior. Ecology consists of extending range usage and increasing diet breadth. Technology consists of “use of new materials such as bone, standardization of tool forms, evidence of hafting, and composite tools; the development of specialized tools” (Nowell 2010: 440). Economic and social organization would include long distance trading. Symbolic behavior includes personal adornment, art, “and burials with grave goods” (Nowell 2010: 440). Tangible evidence in the archaeological record support the behavioral shifts toward modernity mentioned above. Ties to “hominid cognitive and cultural capabilities” (McBrearty & Brooks 2000: 492) further evidential support. To support the statement above a discussion on the development of these traits is necessary. Planning depth is demonstrated through emergence of abilities such as manipulating new environments to perceived needs while combined use of technological features demonstrates inventiveness and logical thinking. Symbolic features imbue meaning to abstract concepts and experiences. Other economic and social features demonstrate the ability to draw on experience, both group and individual. These experiences aid in the formulation of constructing formalized relationships, and understanding, as well as, predicting the future. Technological Innovativeness

The greatest piece of technology associated with the development of modern humans is stone tools. Homo sapiens introduced tools to the European Upper Paleolithic when they migrated to Europe. Stone tools are considered a key ingredient in the “Human Revolution Model”. “In South Africa, the makers of MSA industries routinely manufactured blades from a variety of core types. This technology was clearly in place by 120kya, but its beginnings are poorly constrained temporally” (McBrearty and Brooks 2000: 495). During the African MSA, many regional point styles are represented, and in tropical areas predate those of Europe. In addition to the use of stone tools, MSA people had greater planning depth and intensified their use of resources. There was a progressive expansion in diet breadth between MSA and LSA, as a response to increased population. Through the proliferation of stone tools throughout history overtime they become specialized. April Nowell presents Mellars...
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