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Signaling in Style: On Cooperation, Identity and the Origins of Visual Art

  • Larissa Mendoza StraffonEmail author
Chapter

Abstract

This paper argues that visual art coevolved with typically human ways of social organization and cooperation strategies. My argument, in brief, is that Late Pleistocene human groups became organised in band societies that established networks of indirect reciprocal cooperation, which favoured cultural strategies of individual recognition such as social markers, e.g. styles of personal ornamentation. These early forms of visual art, by conveying information about social identity, became important in recalling and assessing individual interactions in cooperative networks. I also argue that as a cultural strategy, visual art could have been adaptive by reducing risk of aggression and increasing resource acquisition through exchange. As other evolved cultural traits, like tool-making and cooking, visual art too could have had an important impact on shaping modern human cognition and behaviour.

Keywords

Origins of art Pleistocene art Art and evolution Style as information Human cooperation strategies 

Notes

Acknowledgements

I am grateful to the editors, E. Serrelli and F. Panebianco, for inviting me to contribute to this volume, and to two anonymous referees for their comments. This paper was completed within the project ‘Implementing the Extended Synthesis into the Sociocultural Domain’, directed by Nathalie Gontier and funded by the John Templeton Foundation, whom I thank for their support.

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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Leiden UniversityLeidenNetherlands

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