Visuospatial Integration and Hand-Tool Interaction in Cognitive Archaeology

  • Emiliano BrunerEmail author
  • Annapaola Fedato
  • María Silva-Gago
  • Rodrigo Alonso-Alcalde
  • Marcos Terradillos-Bernal
  • María Ángeles Fernández-Durantes
  • Elena Martín-Guerra
Part of the Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences book series (CTBN, volume 41)


Testing cognitive hypotheses in extinct species can be challenging, but it can be done through the integration of independent sources of information (e.g., anatomy, archaeology, neurobiology, psychology), and validated with quantitative and experimental approaches. The parietal cortex has undergone changes and specializations in humans, probably in regions involved in visuospatial integration. Visual imagery and hand-eye coordination are crucial for a species with a remarkable technological and symbolic capacity. Hand-tool relationships are not only a matter of spatial planning but involve deeper cognitive levels that concern body cognition, self-awareness, and the ability to integrate tools into body schemes, extending the body’s functional and structural range. Therefore, a co-evolution between body and technology is to be expected not only in terms of anatomical correspondence but also in terms of cognitive integration. In prehistory, lithic tools are crucial in the interpretation of the cognitive abilities of extinct human species. The shape of tools and the grasping patterns associated with the corresponding haptic experience can supply some basic quantitative approaches to evaluate changes in the archaeological record. At the physiological level, electrodermal activity can be used as proxy to investigate the cognitive response during haptic experiences, revealing differences between tools and between subjects. These approaches can be also useful to evaluate whether and to what extent our complex cognitive resources are based on the capacity to export and delegate functions to external technological components.


Electrodermal activity Grasping pattern Human evolution Neuroarchaeology Parietal lobes Tool shape Visuospatial integration 



We are grateful to Timothy Hodgson for the invitation to participate in this volume and for his detailed comments and suggestions throughout the preparation of this manuscript. We thank the Center for Experimental Archaeology of Atapuerca (CAREX) for its collaboration. Borja Mozo-Grau provided an important technical support during the electrodermal analysis. This study is funded by the Spanish Government (Atapuerca Project; CGL2015-65387-C3-3-P/1-P).


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emiliano Bruner
    • 1
    Email author
  • Annapaola Fedato
    • 1
  • María Silva-Gago
    • 1
  • Rodrigo Alonso-Alcalde
    • 2
  • Marcos Terradillos-Bernal
    • 3
  • María Ángeles Fernández-Durantes
    • 4
  • Elena Martín-Guerra
    • 4
  1. 1.Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución HumanaBurgosSpain
  2. 2.Museo de la Evolución HumanaBurgosSpain
  3. 3.Universidad Internacional Isabel I de CastillaBurgosSpain
  4. 4.Sociograph Marketing Science ConsultingValladolidSpain

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