Biology & Philosophy

, Volume 29, Issue 4, pp 597–609 | Cite as

Musicality in human evolution, archaeology and ethnography

Iain Morley: The prehistory of music: human evolution, archaeology, and the origins of musicality. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2013
  • Anton Killin


This essay reviews Iain Morley’s The Prehistory of Music, an up-to-date and authoritative overview of recent research on evolution and cognition of musicality from an interdisciplinary viewpoint. Given the diversity of the project explored, integration of evidence from multiple fields is particularly pressing, required for any novel evolutionary account to be persuasive, and for the project’s continued progress. Moreover, Morley convincingly demonstrates that there is much more to understanding musicality than is supposed by some theorists. I outline Morley’s review of the archaeological and ethnographic literature, and then go on to critique his assessment of philosophical and evolutionary theories, offering some alternative perspectives that might better benefit his project.


Musicality Evolution of music Philosophy of music Palaeoanthropology Music archaeology Ethnomusicology Evolutionary aesthetics 



Thanks to Kim Sterelny and Stuart Brock for comments on earlier versions of the manuscript. I have also benefited from discussions on related themes with Kim Shaw-Williams and Adrian Currie.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyVictoria University of WellingtonWellingtonNew Zealand

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