Biological Theory

, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 275–286 | Cite as

Senders, Receivers, and Symbolic Artifacts

  • Peter Godfrey-SmithEmail author
Thematic Issue Article: Symbols, Signals, and the Archaeological Record II


A “sender–receiver” framework based on models developed in several fields can provide a general treatment of communicative and symbolic phenomena, replacing traditional semiotic theories that have failed to live up to the hopes of their advocates. Sender–receiver models have mostly been applied to linguistic behavior, gestures, and other ephemeral interactions between individuals. I look at the application of this framework to enduring artifacts, including pictures, using indigenous rock art in Australia as a case study.


Archaeology Communication Peirce Rock art Semiotics Symbols 



I am grateful to everyone who took part in the workshop “Symbols and Communicative Behaviour in Pleistocene Hominins (Symbols II)” at the University of Sydney in 2015. Special thanks to Peter Hiscock and Kim Sterelny for organizing this event, for valuable discussion of all these topics, and for comments on an earlier draft. Thanks also to Ron Planer and Manolo Martínez for many discussions bearing on the second section of this article.


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Copyright information

© Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of History and Philosophy of ScienceUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia

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