The Driving Forces of Cultural Complexity
- 953 Downloads
The forces driving cultural accumulation in human populations, both modern and ancient, are hotly debated. Did genetic, demographic, or cognitive features of behaviorally modern humans (as opposed to, say, early modern humans or Neanderthals) allow culture to accumulate to its current, unprecedented levels of complexity? Theoretical explanations for patterns of accumulation often invoke demographic factors such as population size or density, whereas statistical analyses of variation in cultural complexity often point to the importance of environmental factors such as food stability, in determining cultural complexity. Here we use both an analytical model and an agent-based simulation model to show that a full understanding of the emergence of behavioral modernity, and the cultural evolution that has followed, depends on understanding and untangling the complex relationships among culture, genetically determined cognitive ability, and demographic history. For example, we show that a small but growing population could have a different number of cultural traits from a shrinking population with the same absolute number of individuals in some circumstances.
KeywordsCultural complexity Population size Demography Cultural evolution Neanderthals Modern humans
The authors would like to thank Alex Mesoudi and two anonymous referees for their helpful reviews of this paper. The work was supported by a Templeton Foundation grant to MWF, Monbukagakusho grant 22101004 to KA, Monbukagakusho grant 16H06412 to JYW, and a 2020 Science Fellowship to LF at UCL.
- Cavalli-Sforza, L., & Feldman, M. W. (1981). Cultural transmission and evolution. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Collard, M., Kemery, M., & Banks, S. (2005). Causes of toolkit variation among hunter-gatherers: a test of four competing hypotheses. Canadian Journal of Archaeology, 29(1), 1–19.Google Scholar
- Collard, M., Vaesen, K., Cosgrove, R. & Roebroeks, W. (2016). The empirical case against the “demographic turn” in Palaeolithic archaeology. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, B: Biological Sciences, 371, 20150242. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2015.0242
- Diamond, J. M. (1998). Guns, germs and steel: a short history of everybody for the last 13,000 years. London: Random House.Google Scholar
- Ewens, W. J. (2004). Mathematical population genetics: Theoretical introduction. Interdisciplinary Applied Mathematics 27. New York: Springer-Verlag.Google Scholar
- Fabre, V., Condemi, S., & Degioanni, A. (2009). Genetic evidence of geographical groups among Neanderthals. PloS One, 4(4). doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0005151.
- Fogarty, L., Wakano, J. Y., Feldman, M. W., & Aoki, K. (2015b). Factors limiting the number of independent cultural traits that can be maintained in a population. In K. Aoki & A. Mesoudi (Eds.), Learning strategies and cultural evolution during the Paleolithic (pp. 9–21). Tokyo: Springer JapanGoogle Scholar
- Henrich, J., & Broesch, J. (2011). On the nature of cultural transmission networks: evidence from Fijian villages for adaptive learning biases. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, B: Biological Sciences, 366(1567), 1139–1148.Google Scholar
- Hochberg, M. E. (2004). A theory of modern cultural shifts and meltdowns. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, B: Biological Sciences, 271, S313–S316.Google Scholar
- Jones, R. (1977). The Tasmanian paradox. In R. V. S. Wright (Ed.), Stone tools as cultural markers: Change, evolution and complexity (pp. 189–204). Canberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies.Google Scholar
- Kline, M. A., & Boyd, R. (2010). Population size predicts technological complexity in Oceania. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, B: Biological Sciences, 277(1693), 2559–2564.Google Scholar
- Lehmann, L., Aoki, K., & Feldman, M. W. (2011). On the number of independent cultural traits carried by individuals and populations. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, B: Biological Sciences, 366(1563), 424–435.Google Scholar
- Marquet, P. A., Santoro, C. M., Latorre, C., Standen, V. G., Abades, S. R., Rivadeneira, M. M., et al. (2012). Emergence of social complexity among coastal hunter-gatherers in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 109(37), 14754–14760.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Mithen, S. (1996). The prehistory of the mind. London: Thames and Hudson.Google Scholar
- Muthukrishna, M., Shulman, B. W., Vasilescu, V., & Henrich, J. (2013). Sociality influences cultural complexity. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, B: Biological Sciences, 281(20132511).Google Scholar
- Roberts, P., Henshilwood, C. S., Van Niekerk, K. L., Keene, P., Gledhill, A., Reynard, J., Badenhorst, S. & Lee-Thorp, J. (2016). Climate, environment and early human innovation: stable isotope and faunal proxy evidence from archaeological sites (98-59ka) in the southern Cape, South Africa. PLoS One, 11, 1–20.Google Scholar