The Archaeology of Mind: It’s Not What You Think
John C. Barrett Cambridge Archaeological Journal 23:1 (February 2013): 1-17.
Narratives of human evolution place considerable emphasis upon human cognitive development resulting from the evolution of brain architecture and witnessed by the production of ‘symbolic’ material culture. Recent work has modified the narrative to the extent that cognitive development is treated as the product of humanity’s ability to download certain aspects of brain functionality, such as the storage of information, into external media. This article questions the centrality given to the history of brain architecture as determinate of human cognition by rejecting the widespread assumption that cognition trades in representations, either stored internally in the brain or downloaded externally into cultural media. The alternative, offered here, is that human cognitive development was constructed through the development of joint attention made possible by the anatomical development of hominins and that this sustained a shared empathy between social agents in their practical understanding of the qualities of materiality.