Steven Mithen is a Professor of Archaeology at the University of Reading. He has written a number of books, including The Singing Neanderthals and The Prehistory of the Mind: The Cognitive Origins of Art, Religion and Science.
|Education||BA, MSc, PhD|
|Alma mater||Sheffield University, York University, Cambridge University|
|Known for||Cognitive fluidity, Computational archaeology|
|Institutions||University of Reading|
Cognitive fluidity is a term first popularly applied by Mithen in his book The Prehistory of the Mind, a search for the origins of Art, Religion and Science.
The term cognitive fluidity describes how a modular primate mind has evolved into the modern human mind by combining different ways of processing knowledge and using tools to create a modern civilization. By arriving at original thoughts, which are often highly creative and rely on metaphor and analogy modern humans differ from archaic humans. As such, cognitive fluidity is a key element of the human attentive consciousness. The term has been principally used to contrast the mind of modern humans, especially those after 50,000 B.P. (before present), with those of archaic humans such as Neanderthals and Homo erectus. The latter appear to have had a mentality that was originally domain-specific in structure; a series of largely isolated cognitive domains for operating in the social, material, and natural worlds. These are termed “Swiss penknife minds” with a set of special modules of intelligence for specific domains such as the Social, Natural history, Technical and Linguistic. With the advent of modern humans the barriers between these domains appear to have been largely removed in the attentive mode and hence cognition has become less compartmentalised and more fluid. Consciousness is of course attentive and self-reflective, and the role of the modular intelligences in neurological “Default mode” is a topic for current research in self-reflective human consciousness.
Mithen uses an appropriately interdisciplinary approach, combining observations from cognitive science, archaeology, and other fields, in an attempt to offer a plausible description of prehistoric intellectual evolution.
Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human traits, emotions, or intentions to non-human entities. It is considered to be an innate tendency of human psychology.Personification is the related attribution of human form and characteristics to abstract concepts such as nations, emotions, and natural forces, such as seasons and weather.
Both have ancient roots as storytelling and artistic devices, and most cultures have traditional fables with anthropomorphized animals as characters. People have also routinely attributed human emotions and behavioral traits to wild as well as domesticated animals.Beatty Memorial Lectures
The Beatty Memorial Lecture is a distinguished annual lecture coordinated by McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The lecture series was inaugurated in 1952 to honour Edward Wentworth Beatty, the first Canadian-born president of the Canadian Pacific Railway and the former chancellor of McGill, a position he held from 1921 until his death in 1943. Each year, an internationally renowned visitor presents a public lecture on a subject of their choice, providing an opportunity for the McGill community and the general public to "further their education on topical issues."The motto of the lecture series is, "Change Through Exchange."Themes covered in past Beatty Lectures have ranged in focus, from politics, philosophy, science, comedy and urbanization, to the environment and literature. Past lecturers have included Nobel Laureates, leading neuroscientists, renowned musicians and trailblazing activists. Some of the most famous lecturers have included Margaret Atwood; Richard Dawkins; Deepak Chopra, Muhammad Yunus, Queen Noor of Jordan, Jane Goodall, Saul Bellow, Arthur Ashe and Douglas Copland.Blueprint (book)
Blueprint: How DNA Makes Us Who We Are is a book by behavioral geneticist Robert Plomin, first published in 2018 by the MIT Press and Allen Lane. The book argues that genetic factors, and specifically variations in individuals' DNA, has a large effect on human psychological traits, accounting for approximately half of all variation in such traits. The book also claims that genes play a more important role in people's personalities than does the environment. In Blueprint, Plomin argues that environmental effects on human psychological differences, although they exist, are "...mostly random – unsystematic and unstable – which means that we cannot do much about them."Caroline Malone
Caroline Malone (born 10 October 1957) is a British academic and archaeologist, currently Professor of Prehistory at Queen's University, Belfast School of Natural and Built Environment http://www.qub.ac.uk/schools/nbe/, and formerly Senior Tutor of Hughes Hall, Cambridge, UK. Prior to this she was editor of Antiquity and Keeper of the Department of Prehistory and Early Europe at the British Museum. She began her career as curator at the Alexander Keillor Museum at Avebury.
Her research interests include fieldwork in peninsular Italy (since 1983), Malta (since 1987), and Troina in Sicily (since 1997), and currently in Britain. Specific topics include archaeological theory and practice; Neolithic and Copper Age societies of Britain, Europe, Mediterranean, and Italy; island societies and island archaeology; landscape and settlement archaeology: cultural resource management: artefacts and technology: fieldwork and survey. Malone headed a successful European Research Council bid for an Advanced Research Project entitled FRAGSUS which commenced in 2013. This project collaborates with institutions in Malta and investigates the environmental impact of early colonists in Malta, and excavated at the Neolithic temple sites of Ggantija, Santa Verna, Kordin III and Skorba as well as Tac Cawla and the Bronze Age site of In Nuffara in an attempt to explored chronology, economy and landscape.
Malone graduated BA at the University of Cambridge in 1980, holds an MA in Archaeology and Anthropology, and was awarded a Ph.D in Archaeology by Cambridge University in 1986. She is married to Cambridge archaeologist Simon Stoddart with whom she has directed fieldwork since 1983 and has two children.Cognitive archaeology
Cognitive archaeology is a theoretical perspective in archaeology which focuses on the ways that ancient societies thought and the symbolic structures that can be perceived in past material culture.
Cognitive archaeologists often study the role that ideology and differing organizational approaches would have had on ancient peoples. The way that these abstract ideas are manifested through the remains that these peoples have left can be investigated and debated often by drawing inferences and using approaches developed in fields such as semiotics, psychology and the wider sciences.
Humans do not behave under the influence of their senses alone but also through their past experiences such as their upbringing. These experiences contribute to each individual's unique view of the world, a kind of cognitive map that guides them. Groups of people living together tend to develop a shared view of the world and similar cognitive maps which in turn influence their group material culture.
Archaeologists have always tried to imagine what motivated people but early efforts to understand how they thought were unstructured and speculative. Since the rise of processualism these approaches have become more scientific, paying close attention to the Archaeological context of archaeological finds and all possible interpretations. For example, a prehistoric bâton de commandement served an unknown purpose but using cognitive archaeology to interpret it would involve evaluating all its possible functions using clearly defined procedures and comparisons. By applying logic and experimental evidence, the most likely functions can be isolated.
The multiple interpretations of an artifact, archaeological site or symbol are affected by the archaeologist's own experiences and ideas as well as those of the distant cultural tradition that created it. Cave art for example may not have been art in the modern sense at all but perhaps the product of ritual. Similarly, it would likely have described activities that were perfectly obvious to the people who created it but the symbology employed will be different from that used today or at any other time.
Some archaeologists such as Lewis Binford have critiqued cognitive archaeology, stating that it is only people's actions rather than their thoughts that are preserved in the archaeological record. However it can be argued that even this evidence of actions is still the product of human thought and would have been governed by a multitude of experiences and perspectives. Thus one can see Cognitive Archaeology as a development of Processual Archaeology in that the combination of material culture and actions can be further developed into a study of the ideas which drove action and used objects. This method attempts to avoid the pitfalls of Post-Processual Archaeology by retaining the 'scientific' aspects of Processual Archaeology while reaching for the higher social levels of ideas.Deep history
Deep history is a term for the distant past of the human species. As an intellectual discipline, deep history encourages scholars in anthropology, archaeology, primatology, genetics and linguistics to work together to write a common narrative about the beginnings of humans, and to redress what they see as an imbalance among historians, who mostly concentrate on more recent periods. Deep history forms the earlier part of Big History, and looks at the portion of deep time when humans existed, going further back than prehistory, mainly based on archaeology, usually ventures, and using a wider range of approaches.
Proponents of deep history argue for a definition of history that rests not upon the invention of writing, but upon the evolution of anatomically modern humans. According to Daniel Lord Smail, perhaps the most prominent advocate of Deep History, the concept of prehistory is recast as an arbitrary boundary that limits the longue durée perspective of historians, and which rests upon assumptions that history follows a teleological path beginning with the origins of civilization in Ancient Mesopotamia. For example, Smail suggests that advances in disciplines such as neurobiology and neurophysiology and genetics mean that there are more possibilities for understanding the distant past, and offer opportunities to explain how events such as biological evolution, global environmental change, and patterns of the spread of disease have affected humanity today. Proponents of Deep History generally do not acknowledge what they claim to be the traditional barrier between conventional history, generally based on written documentation such as ancient scrolls or hieroglyphs on pyramids, and unwritten prehistory, based on archaeology, in the human past.A review of Smail's book by Steven Mithen, professor of Archaeology at the University of Reading, is sympathetic to some parts of his thesis, but says "Smail may not be as closely acquainted with the ongoing debates in prehistoric archaeology as he might be", and on Smail's critical description of historians: "I have to take Smail’s word for it that such historians still exist, as after more than a century of prehistoric archaeology they would be an astonishing throwback to another age".Evolutionary musicology
Evolutionary musicology is a subfield of biomusicology that grounds the psychological mechanisms of music perception and production in evolutionary theory. It covers vocal communication in non-human animal species, theories of the evolution of human music, and cross-cultural human universals in musical ability and processing.Evolutionary origin of religions
The evolutionary origin of religions and religious behavior is a field of study related to evolutionary psychology, the origin of language and mythology, and cross-cultural comparison of the anthropology of religion. Some subjects of interest include Neolithic religion, evidence for spirituality or cultic behavior in the Upper Paleolithic, and similarities in great ape behavior.Gruinart Flats
The Gruinart Flats is a low-lying landform on the western part of the isle of Islay in Scotland. The locale is an important conservation area, having been designated as an SSSI. Much of the Gruinart Flats is a marshy area operated by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. This vicinity is known to be an early habitation site by Mesolithic peoples.Göbekli Tepe
Göbekli Tepe (Turkish: [ɟœbecˈli teˈpe], Turkish for "Potbelly Hill") is an archaeological site in the Southeastern Anatolia Region of Turkey, approximately 12 km (7 mi) northeast of the city of Şanlıurfa. The tell has a height of 15 m (49 ft) and is about 300 m (980 ft) in diameter. It is approximately 760 m (2,490 ft) above sea level.
The tell includes two phases of use, believed to be of a social or ritual nature by site discoverer and excavator Klaus Schmidt, dating back to the 10th–8th millennium BCE. During the first phase, belonging to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA), circles of massive T-shaped stone pillars were erected – the world's oldest known megaliths.More than 200 pillars in about 20 circles are currently known through geophysical surveys. Each pillar has a height of up to 6 m (20 ft) and weighs up to 10 tons. They are fitted into sockets that were hewn out of the bedrock. In the second phase, belonging to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB), the erected pillars are smaller and stood in rectangular rooms with floors of polished lime. The site was abandoned after the PPNB. Younger structures date to classical times.
The details of the structure's function remain a mystery. It was partially excavated by a German archaeological team under the direction of Schmidt from 1996 until his death in 2014. In 2018, the site was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.Kariandusi prehistoric site
Kariandusi prehistoric site is an archaeological site in Kenya. Located on the southeastern edge of the Great Rift Valley and on Lake Elmenteita, Kariandusi is an African Early Stone Age site dating to approximately 1 million years ago.Marek Kohn
Marek Kohn is a British science writer on evolution, biology and society. His first two books were on drugs, their cultural history, and their politics. He is the author of seven books and hundreds of articles. He holds an undergraduate degree in neurobiology from the University of Sussex, a PhD from the University of Brighton and has held fellowships at both schools. He is currently an honorary research fellow with the latter. His writing has appeared in The Independent, New Scientist, Prospect, Financial Times, and The Guardian, and he writes frequently for the New Statesman.
Kohn's book, A Reason for Everything (2004), has received widespread praise, including Steve Jones' stating in his Nature review that "every evolutionist should read it," and Andrew Brown, author of the Darwin Wars, writing in his Guardian review, "one of the best science writers we have."In 1999, Kohn had proposed, together with the archaeologist Steven Mithen, the so-called "sexy hand-axe hypothesis."Following the publication of his name in a list of persons invited to participate in Steve Sailer's Human Biodiversity Group discussion pages, Kohn wrote to Lynn Conway to dissociate himself from many of the participants' scientific and political views.Kohn has also written about the possible future effects of climate change on Britain's landscape and society; health inequalities; the evolutionary psychology of trust; and Poles in British society. Kohn is also the author of a guide to the Wellcome Collection.
In December 2014 Kohn also contributed to the BBC Radio4 'Live Documentary' 'Palace of Great War Varieties' presented by Matthew Sweet Kohn resides in Brighton with his wife, Sue Matthias Kohn, with whom he has a son.Sandra Trehub
Sandra Trehub is a Canadian psychologist who studies how music affects children and infants. She works at the University of Toronto and from January 31 to June 4 of 2013 lectured at the CosmoCaixa Barcelona. She is known for her coauthorship with such fellows as Eckart Altenmuller, Emmanuel Bigand, Jaume Ayats, Josef Rauschecker and Steven Mithen at the Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies. She has an h-index of 55.Social intelligence
Social intelligence is the capacity to know oneself and to know others. Social scientist Ross Honeywill believes social intelligence is an aggregated measure of self- and social-awareness, evolved social beliefs and attitudes, and a capacity and appetite to manage complex social change. Psychologist, Nicholas Humphrey believes that it is social intelligence, rather than quantitative intelligence, that defines who we are as humans.
The original definition by Edward Thorndike in 1920 is "the ability to understand and manage men and women and boys and girls, to act wisely in human relations". It is equivalent to interpersonal intelligence, one of the types of intelligence identified in Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences, and closely related to theory of mind. Some authors have restricted the definition to deal only with knowledge of social situations, perhaps more properly called social cognition or social marketing intelligence, as it pertains to trending socio-psychological advertising and marketing strategies and tactics. According to Sean Foleno, social intelligence is a person’s competence to optimally understand one's environment and react appropriately for socially successful conduct. It is important to note the multiple definitions listed above, as there is yet to be a complete consensus on the operational definition of social intelligence.The Gap (book)
The Gap is a 2013 nonfiction book by Thomas Suddendorf that discusses what cognitive qualities separate humans from other animals, and how they evolved.
The Gap: The Science of What Separates Us From Other Animals. Basic Books: New York ISBN 978-0-465-03014-9The Institute for Cultural Research
The Institute for Cultural Research (ICR) was a London-based, UK-registered educational charity, events organizer and publisher which aimed to stimulate study, debate, education and research into all aspects of human thought, behaviour and culture. It brought together many distinguished speakers, writers and Fellows over the years.
A statement issued in 2013 by the institute on its official web site read: "As of summer 2013, the Institute has suspended its activities following the formation of a new charity, The Idries Shah Foundation."Theory of multiple intelligences
The theory of multiple intelligences differentiates human intelligence into specific 'modalities', rather than seeing intelligence as dominated by a single general ability. Howard Gardner proposed this model in his 1983 book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. According to the theory, an intelligence 'modality' must fulfill eight criteria:
potential for brain isolation by brain damage
place in evolutionary history
presence of core operations
susceptibility to encoding (symbolic expression)
a distinct developmental progression
the existence of savants, prodigies and other exceptional people
support from experimental psychology
support from psychometric findingsGardner proposed eight abilities that he held to meet these criteria:
naturalisticHe later suggested that existential and moral intelligences may also be worthy of inclusion.Although the distinction between intelligences has been set out in great detail, Gardner opposes the idea of labeling learners to a specific intelligence. Gardner maintains that his theory should "empower learners", not restrict them to one modality of learning. According to Gardner, an intelligence is "a biopsychological potential to process information that can be activated in a cultural setting to solve problems or create products that are of value in a culture." According to a 2006 study, each of the domains proposed by Gardner involves a blend of the general g factor, cognitive abilities other than g, and, in some cases, non-cognitive abilities or personality characteristics.Venus of Berekhat Ram
The Venus of Berekhat Ram is a pebble found at Berekhat Ram on the Golan Heights in the summer of 1981 by archaeologist N. Goren-Inbar of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. An article by Goren-Inbar and S. Peltz (1995) claims it has been modified to represent a female human figure, identifying it as a possible artifact made by Homo erectus of the later Acheulean, in the early Middle Paleolithic. The term "Venus" follows the convention for labelling the unrelated Venus figurines of the Upper Paleolithic. The claim is contested.