Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

Living Edition
| Editors: Todd K. Shackelford, Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford

Symbolic Culture

  • Marc KisselEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_3318-1

Synonyms

Definitions

The creation, use, and transfer of symbolic objects, such as the creation of meaningful images and soundscapes, through culturally mediated transmission.

Introduction

Discerning what makes Homo sapiensunique among the rest of the species on the planet has been a difficult task, especially as behaviors such as tool use, learning, altruism, and compassion have been reported in nonhuman animals (though not without controversy). What does seem distinctive is our unique symbolic culture, the use and transmission of symbols intergenerationally. To be clear, animals use sound for communication, and some have elaborate systems of information transfer, but only modern humans use symbolic culture to create and recreate the human niche through concepts such as good and evil and political systems. The origin of symbolic culture has been a major research topic for scholars studying human evolution and has been the subject of...

Keywords

Modern Human Linguistic Sign Symbolic Culture Symbolic Behavior Mortuary Practice 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

References

  1. Bednarik, R. G. (2008). The mythical moderns. Journal of World Prehistory, 21(2), 85–102. doi: 10.1007/s10963-008-9009-8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Berger, L. R., Hawks, J., de Ruiter, D. J., Churchill, S. E., Schmid, P., Delezene, L. K., … Zipfel, B. (2015). Homo naledi, a new species of the genus Homo from the Dinaledi Chamber, South Africa. eLife, 4(2015), 1–35. https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.09560.
  3. Deacon, T. W. (1997). The symbolic species: The co-evolution of language and the brain. New York: W. W. Norton.Google Scholar
  4. Fuentes, A. (2017). The creative spark: How imagination made humans exceptional. New York: Dutton.Google Scholar
  5. Henshilwood, C. S., d’Errico, F., Yates, R., Jacobs, Z., Tribolo, C., Duller, G., … Wintle, A. G. (2002). Emergence of modern human behavior: Middle Stone Age engravings from South Africa. Science, 295(5558), 1278–1280.Google Scholar
  6. Kissel, M., & Fuentes, A. (2016). From hominid to human: The role of human wisdom and distinctiveness in the evolution of modern humans. Philosophy, Theology and the Sciences, 3(2), 217–244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. McBrearty, S., & Brooks, A. (2000). The revolution that wasn’t: A new interpretation of the origin of modern human behavior. Journal of Human Evolution, 39, 453–563.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Renfrew, C. (1996). The sapient behaviour paradox: How to test for potential? In P. Mellars & K. Gibson (Eds.), Modelling the early human mind (pp. 11–15). Cambridge, MA: McDonald Institiue.Google Scholar
  9. Shea, J. J. (2011). Homo sapiens is as homo sapiens was. Current Anthropology, 52(1), 1–35. doi: 10.1086/658067.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. White, L. (1940). The symbol: The origin and basis of human behavior. Philosophy of Science, 7(4), 451–463. doi: 10.1086/286655.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyAppalachian State UniversityBooneUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Christopher D. Watkins
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Psychology, School of Social and Health SciencesAbertay UniversityDundeeUK