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Landscape of the Mind

Landscape of the Mind: Human Evolution and the Archaeology of Thought

Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Landscape of the Mind
    Book Description:

    In Landscape of the Mind, John F. Hoffecker explores the origin and growth of the human mind, drawing on archaeology, history, and the fossil record. He suggests that, as an indirect result of bipedal locomotion, early humans developed a feedback relationship among their hands, brains, and tools that evolved into the capacity to externalize thoughts in the form of shaped stone objects. When anatomically modern humans evolved a parallel capacity to externalize thoughts as symbolic language, individual brains within social groups became integrated into a "neocortical Internet," or super-brain, giving birth to the mind.

    Noting that archaeological traces of symbolism coincide with evidence of the ability to generate novel technology, Hoffecker contends that human creativity, as well as higher orderconsciousness, is a product of the superbrain. He equates the subsequent growth of the mind with human history, which began in Africa more than 50,000 years ago. As anatomicallymodern humans spread across the globe, adapting to a variety of climates and habitats, they redesigned themselves technologically and created alternative realities through tools, language, and art. Hoffecker connects the rise of civilization to a hierarchical reorganization of the super-brain, triggered by explosive population growth. Subsequent human history reflects to varying degrees the suppression of the mind's creative powers by the rigid hierarchies of nationstates and empires, constraining the further accumulation of knowledge. The modern world emerged after 1200 from the fragments of the Roman Empire, whose collapse had eliminated a central authority that could thwart innovation. Hoffecker concludes with speculation about the possibility of artificial intelligence and the consequences of a mindliberated from its organic antecedents to exist in an independent, nonbiological form.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51848-2
    Subjects: Anthropology, Archaeology, Psychology, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    (pp. 1-32)

    Toward the end of his memoir , Vladimir Nabokov expressed his frustration at “having developed an infinity of sensation and thought within a finite existence.”¹ It was a theme he had turned to in the last lines of Lolita: “I am thinking of aurochs and angels, the secret of durable pigments, prophetic sonnets, the refuge of art. And this is the only immortality you and I may share.”² Nabokov died in 1977 and—like all other forms of organic life—relinquished his conscious sensation of being. But many of his thoughts continue to exist, as they do on this page,...

    (pp. 33-72)

    The earliest known examples of external thought appear roughly 1.5 million years ago in the form of chipped stone objects. They are pieces of rock chipped on both sides into an oval shape that archaeologists refer to as bifaces, or bifacially flaked tools. They have achieved the exalted status of an externalized mental representation because they bear little resemblance to the natural object—a variously shaped cobble or fragment of rock—from which they were made. They have been transformed by a pair of human hands in accordance with a mental template, or an internal mental representation.¹

    Archaeologists have been...

    (pp. 73-103)

    Archaeological evidence of the modern mind (or modernity) emerged in Africa after 100,000 years ago. It is associated with anatomically modern humans (Homo sapiens). At first, the signs of modernity seem rather modest; they are confined to perforated-shell ornaments, polished bone awls and points, and simple geometric designs incised into lumps of red ocher.¹ But roughly 60,000 years ago, some of these anatomically and behaviorally modern humans spread out of Africa and into other parts of the Old World, including Australia. In a relatively short period of time, the geographic area of the modern human archaeological record was expanded greatly,...

    (pp. 104-137)

    More than anyone else , V. Gordon Childe (1892–1957) helped shift the subject of archaeology from artifacts to people. Nineteenth-century archaeology had been dominated by the classification of artifacts, organized into stratified sequences and interpreted within a framework based on a vague theory of progress. Beginning in 1925 with the publication of The Dawn of European Civilization, Childe transformed the artifacts into a historical narrative: “a preliterate substitute for the conventional politicomilitary history with cultures, instead of statesmen, as actors, and migrations in place of battles.”¹

    Throughout his career, Childe searched for the appropriate framework to interpret the archaeological...

    (pp. 138-168)

    The Upper Paleolithic was a time of more or less steady innovation and growth of knowledge. Although the uncertainties of discovery and dating in this range make it difficult to identify intervals when the pace of innovation may have slowed or halted altogether, the archaeological record yields a long succession of novelties from fur hoods to fishhooks and boats to baking ovens. The cumulative effect of these inventions was to redesign humans in a variety of ways, in accordance with the collective mind. Their practical impact from a biological standpoint was to allow one species—of recent tropical origin—to...

    (pp. 169-178)

    At the time that anatomically modern humans evolved in Africa, the social insects were arguably the dominant form of terrestrial animal life on Earth. The ants alone are estimated to have achieved a biomass roughly equal to that of the current human population (more than 6.5 billion people). The social insects had assumed control of the most favorable nesting sites, forcing solitary insects into marginal zones. Their success is attributed to their organizational adaptations, particularly impressive among the eusocial, or “true social,” insects such as bees and ants. The ants are represented by thousands of species and a wide variety...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 179-220)
    (pp. 221-244)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 245-266)