Before 70,000 years ago there were a number of human species in existence. By around 35,000 years ago we were the last human species. The big question is, why did our species survive and not the other humans. What might have given us the edge? One of the biggest differences between ourselves and the other human species has to do with the cultural material that has been left behind in the archaeological record. The most characteristic elements that makes Homo sapiens artifacts different from other species has to do with their symbolic nature and the size of their sites.
From their archaeological sites, it possible to see that Homo sapiens lived in larger groups compared to Neanderthals, Denisovans or Homo floresiensis. In fact, its possible to say that our species is the only Human species that has been able to live in a large group. The big question then becomes, what allowed us to be able to live in large groups in the first place… especially because it requires cooperation with kin and with friends.
The other thing that we see is that our archaeological record becomes filled with cultural artifact that are not just functional but are also abstract in nature. For example, in the archaeological record we see that all humans were creating stone blades. What’s different about Homo sapiens is that we are not just creating stone blades like the other humans, rather we begin to decorate our stone blades with pigments. Creating art and other symbolic creations don’t seem like a big deal unless you compare ourselves to other species and then realize that we are the only ones that consistently create abstract innovations.
Your task will be to explore the importance of language and prosocial behaviors in our evolution.
View both of the following TED talks so that you can answer the discussion questions.
Click on the “Gear icon” located in the top right-hand corner and then click on “Show Rubric” to view the grading requirements for this discussion.
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