Human Artistic Behaviour: Adaptation, Byproduct, or Cultural Group Selection?

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Abstract

Evolutionary accounts of art fall naturally into two categories: those that propose that art is an adaptation, and those that propose it is a byproduct of adaptations which evolved for different purposes. Although each of these positions can be supported by a wide range of empirical evidence, we will argue that there are shortcomings in each type of explanation. We will propose the alternative that the earliest art arose as a product of cultural group selection, drawing on theoretical models of altruism, anthropological observations of the use of art in extant small-scale societies and archaeological findings from Upper Palaeolithic Europe, in particular the Magdalenian cultural complex.