The Justification for a Distinction Between Different Forms of Innovation in Prehistory

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1) INTRODUCTION

The subject of innovation and the innovative abilities of prehistoric hominid populations is a widely discussed and disseminated area of research throughout the academic community. It is to be noted, however, that only very rarely, if ever, is any differentiation made between distinct forms of innovation. This paper will endeavour, therefore, to identify two separate forms of innovation and justify the demarcation between the two by analysing the ways in which they are represented in the archaeological record and forming interpretations and hypotheses based on the evidence which highlight the effects both forms of innovation have on hominid populations and the implications for behavioural patterns. The two forms of innovation to be considered are those of technological and symbolic innovation, with technology representing the development of adaptations to functional material culture, such as stone tools, and symbolism signifying advancements in more creative aspects, comprising both developments in symbolic material culture as well as creative thought. It will be argued that such a differentiation is important to make as we move away from the rigid and holistic categorisation of hominid taxa and populations and progress towards more detailed and focused interpretations of prehistoric life and the identification of material and cognitive developments in our ancestors that have led up to and resulted in the human race in its current form.

Three key questions will be asked and referred to throughout the paper, with direct answers being proposed in the final conclusion:

* Can different forms of innovation be identified within the archaeological record and can differentiation be justified? * What inferences can be drawn surrounding the way in which different forms of innovation affect behaviour? * Are there influences or pressures that can favour the development of one form of innovation over the other and what are the potential consequences of an over-emphasis of one over the other? The paper will focus almost entirely on Europe during its occupation by Homo neanderthalensis and the expansion of Homo sapiens into the region as this provides not only the evidence on which to base interpretations but also provides an opportunity to draw comparisons and contrasts between two contemporaneous species as well as analysing changes in, and impacts on, material culture during a period of interaction.

Chapter two will address the issue of innovation by assessing current thinking surrounding the topic and providing critiques of a selection of academic literature. It will also provide a succinct background to the subject whilst proposing and justifying the idea that technological and symbolic innovation should be treated as separate, although related, entities.

The third chapter will assess the impacts of differing forms of innovation on the archaeological record and, therefore, how they can be identified. It will highlight different forms of evidence and how the innovative processes that led to their creation can be analysed. By piecing together the developmental process behind material culture, it will be proposed that different types of innovation can be identified and, by extension, analysed individually.

The following chapter will then consider the potential sources of influence that can impact upon the development of each form of innovation and can, potentially, lead to one form developing more rapidly than the other. It will begin by assessing ways in which both forms of innovation can be influenced before considering what impacts these influences can have on each form individually and whether there are pressures that affect only one form of innovation.

Chapter five will then consider the impact of the different forms of innovation on the hominid populations themselves and propose that by studying differing forms of innovation and their developmental processes, we can glean a more...
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