Journal of Archaeological Research

, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 1–54 | Cite as

The Emergence of Ornaments and Art: An Archaeological Perspective on the Origins of “Behavioral Modernity”

Original Paper

Abstract

The earliest known personal ornaments come from the Middle Stone Age of southern Africa, c. 75,000 years ago, and are associated with anatomically modern humans. In Europe, such items are not recorded until after 45,000 radiocarbon years ago, in Neandertal-associated contexts that significantly predate the earliest evidence, archaeological or paleontological, for the immigration of modern humans; thus, they represent either independent invention or acquisition of the concept by long-distance diffusion, implying in both cases comparable levels of cognitive capability and performance. The emergence of figurative art postdates c. 32,000 radiocarbon years ago, several millennia after the time of Neandertal/modern human contact. These temporal patterns suggest that the emergence of “behavioral modernity” was triggered by demographic and social processes and is not a species-specific phenomenon; a corollary of these conclusions is that the corresponding genetic and cognitive basis must have been present in the genus Homo before the evolutionary split between the Neandertal and modern human lineages.

Keywords

Art Modern humans Neandertals Ornaments 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The research and initial drafting for this article were performed during a 2003–2004 research stay at the University of Cologne, in the framework of a Humboldt Foundation Research Award. I am particularly grateful to Nicholas Conard, Martin Porr, Ludwig Reisch, Jürgen Richter, Thorsten Uthmeier, Gerd-Christian Weniger, Bernhard Weninger, Andreas Zimmermann, and Christian Züchner for making my stay in Germany pleasant and productive. The ideas expressed here also benefited from exchanges with and information provided by many other colleagues. I am particularly grateful to Diego Angelucci, Javier Baena, Paul Bahn, Ion Băltean, Ofer Bar-Yosef, François Bon, Jean-Guillaume Bordes, Alberto Broglio, Miguel Cortés, Francesco d’Errico, Francine David, Javier Fortea, Dominique Henry-Gambier, Michèle Julien, Ivor Karavanić, Janusz Kozłowski, Stephen Kuhn, Claire Letourneux, Jose Manuel Maíllo, António Monge Soares, Ramón Montes, Anna Pazdur, Catherine Perlès, Paul Pettitt, Daniel Richter, Curtis Runnels, Valery Sitlivy, Olga Soffer, Jiří Svoboda, Nicholas Teyssandier, Erik Trinkaus, Marian Vanhaeren, Alexander Verpoorte, Paola Villa, and Ralf Vogelsang for the information provided on request. Last but not the least, T. Douglas Price originally invited me to write this review, and I must thank him for his patient wait. As usual, any errors or omissions are my own.

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Archaeology and AnthropologyUniversity of BristolBristolUnited Kingdom

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