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Sexual selection models for the emergence of symbolic communication: why they should be reversed

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The arena of social and sexual relations, with both cooperation and conflict endemic in complex multimale, multifemale social groups, is most promising for generating elaborate signal systems (cf. Mφller 1997). A number of models have been presented in the past decade highlighting sexual selection as the driving force in linguistic and cultural signal evolution (e.g. Miller 1999, Burling 2005, Locke and Bogin 2006), or sexual selection of genetic characteristics correlated with language abilities (Crow 2002). Without exception, these models have argued for male sexually selected cultural or linguistic signalling motored by female choice. This paper will argue the opposite: that the emergence of symbolic forms of ritual and language entailed processes of female sexually selected display motored by male choice. The reason for the reversal of the usual direction of forces of sexual selection lies in the reproductive requirements of evolving human females. As females of Homo heidelbergensis, H. neanderthalensis and the direct ancestors of modern H. sapiens came under increasing selection pressure for encephalization within the past 500,000 years, they needed more energy to support their larger-brained offspring. Females who could recruit increased levels of investment from males would have greater fitness. This implies that females selected males for provisioning abilities (i.e. hunting medium to large game). But as males had to work harder to gain reproductive access, theory of parental investment and sexual selection (Trivers 1972) says they should become more choosy about which particular females they invest in. Which females did males choose and why? What was the signalling system that arose as females competed in coalitions to gain investment from choosy males? What qualities were they advertising with costly signal displays? The Sham Menstruation or Female Cosmetic Coalitions model offers testable predictions across the fields of archaeology, palaeontology and hunter-gatherer ethnography. In particular it is the only Darwinian account of why red ochre became the cultural species marker for Homo sapiens as we emerged in Africa an subsequently moved out to the Middle East, Australia and Eurasia.
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... 108-127) even argued that some basic aspects of symbolic culture are already present in wild chimpanzees. Several theorists hypothesize that group ritualization played a key role in the emergence of fully symbolic culture by establishing and stabilizing the necessary relationships of trust between signalers and receivers and generating a shared domain of meaning (Deacon, 1997;Durkheim, 1912;Henrich, 2009;Knight, 1999Knight, , 2014Power, 2009Power, , 2014Rappaport, 1999). If a large proportion of the red ochre from the African MSA does indeed manifest past ritual behavior, then it might represent a material remain of this very critical transitional process in human evolution, one which allows us to glimpse the gradual emergence of symbolic material culture. ...
... From an evolutionary perspective, the human collective ritual is a special mode of behavior composed of different psychologically active building blocks, some older, some younger. Like other theorists (Deacon, 1997;Dissanayake, 2018;Power, 2009Power, , 2014Rossano, 2012Rossano, , 2016, we assume that the oldest components are traceable to non-symbolic ritualization and costly signaling. These behaviors are observable in many non-human species today (Huxley, 1966;Krebs & Dawkins, 1991;Maynard-Smith & Harper, 2003;Zahavi & Zahavi, 1997). ...
... If it is true that trustenhancing and meaning-generating collective rituals were needed to establish the first jointly shared fictions (i.e., symbolism) by solving the cooperative dilemma, then the emergence of habitual collective rituals was one important prerequisite for the evolution of symbolic communication (Deacon, 1997, pp. 402-407;Durkheim, 1912;Power, 2009;Rappaport, 1999, pp. 54-56;Rossano, 2016;Watts, 2009). ...
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Over the last two decades, red ochre has played a pivotal role in discussions about the cognitive and cultural evolution of early modern humans during the African Middle Stone Age. Given the importance of ochre for the scholarly debate about the emergence of ‘behavioral modernity’, the lack of long-term spatio-temporal analyses spanning large geographical areas represents a significant gap in knowledge. Here we take a continent-wide approach, rather than focusing on specific sites, regions or technocomplexes. We report the most comprehensive meta-analysis of ochre use to date, spanning Africa between 500 and 40 thousand years ago, to examine data from more than a hundred archaeological sites. Using methods based on time averaging, we identified three distinct phases of ochre use: the initial phase occurred from 500,000 to 330,000; the emergent phase from 330,000 to 160,000; and the habitual phase from 160,000 to 40,000 years ago. The number of sites with ochre increased with each subsequent phase. More importantly, the ratio of sites with ochre compared to those with only stone artifacts also followed this trend, indicating the increasing intensity of ochre use during the Middle Stone Age. While the geographical distribution expanded with time, the absolute number of ochre finds grew significantly as well, underlining the intensification of ochre use. We determine that ochre use established itself as a habitual cultural practice in southern, eastern and northern Africa starting about 160,000 years ago, when a third of archaeological sites contain ochre. We argue that this pattern is a likely material manifestation of intensifying ritual activity in early populations of Homo sapiens . Such ritual behavior may have facilitated the demographic expansion of early modern humans, first within and eventually beyond the African continent. We discuss the implications of our findings on two models of ritual evolution, the Female Cosmetic Coalitions Hypothesis and the Ecological Stress Hypothesis, as well as a model about the emergence of complex cultural capacities, the Eight-Grade Model for the Evolution and Expansion of Cultural Capacities .
... [on-line:] https:// takie jej przejawy jak np. szympans próbujący pomóc odlecieć zranionemu ptakowi 228 . ...
... Do 26 grudnia 2016 r. ten niesamowity film obejrzało ponad 78 mln internautów. 228 "Pewnego dnia Kumi złapała szpaka. W obawie, że może zamęczyć ogłuszonego ptaka (…) opiekun polecił małpie wypuścić zdobycz (…). ...
... Zadziwia różnica w intensyfikacji użycia barwników takich jak ochra, gdy porównujemy znaleziska afrykańskie i europejskie. Wydaje się, że w Afryce powszechne użycie ochry pojawia się wcześ niej 228 . Pamiętajmy jednak o różnicach w sposobie przechowania się szczątków aktywności ludzkiej w zależności od uwarunkowań klimatycznych. ...
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The main premise of this work is highlighting how old the human race actually is. Its origins, as the Author believes, are constantly shifting deeper into history, reaching now millions of years’ distance. Our position in relation to animals makes us unique beings, if only because it is solely us who can meditate on this subject. One should agree that evolution of our kind is a biological process, but talking about it is exclusively a product of our culture. The Author is aware that this book asks more questions than it answers. This is what it must be at the current level of our knowledge. The dynamic of archeological, paleontological and genetic discoveries is simply too great at this point in the 21st century. In reference to the possible criticism that the Author treats many of the findings presented in this book as hypotheses (and even working hypotheses), the Author must point out that in his opinion it is impossible to do otherwise. We have been on this planet for a very long time, at least several million years. The concepts of separate species of Homo which appear in academic discourse are rather vague. The crossbreeding of different kinds of proto-humans points rather to the community of humanity of these creatures rather than to the unbridgeable gaps between them. This phenomenon has various biological and cultural consequences. One must be aware that such creations of the human spirit, perhaps supported by 264 ABSTRACT natural abilities, such as morality and, consequently, ethics and the foundations of the law, are very old. They are as old as we are. This is the fact that the Author wants to highlight in this book. Spirituality (symbolic culture), and in general - culture forming social structures specific for humans, even if not originating in our minds and being only a manifestation of biological evolution (although it has not been convincingly explained how this happens solely on the biological path), must still be stored in our minds. Most likely, they are or at some point become emergent entities in relation to the underlying factors. They form a new human quality. Culture, including legal culture, must have human mental space appropriate for its impact. It is within this culture that validation decisions are made with respect to the origin of legal norms as such (the origin of natural law) and the legitimacy of its application in a given case (the impact of primitive law). This publication makes an attempt to present the research area which appears under the influence of the achievements of the Stone Age archeology, exploring the beginnings of our kind. The ambitious goal of this work is showing the stage on which these phenomena, extremely important for our existence, were able to occur both in time, in physical space, as well as in the mental space of our ancestors. This attempt is an archaeologist’s look at pra-culture with an emphasis on the moment when law may appear as a product of the human condition, which may be as old as the condition itself. It is widely known that the older something is, the more attractive it is to archaeologists. The work includes numerous references to research on contemporary primates, which in the face of rapid changes of the world are under threat in their forest habitats. We must protect them! We are responsible for animals, as well as for the whole nature. What is more, taking care of nature, we also take care of ourselves. Protecting the environment is one of our most important tasks at present. Understanding our responsibility for the world and actively participating in its protection, in the Author’s opinion, makes much more sense than trying to equate people with animals. Key words: human evolution, The Stone Age archeology, begginings of primitive law
... So, the occasion for reverse dominant collective -moral -action happened whenever a prospective alpha male tried to abduct a potentially fertile female. One model for the emergence of symbolism fits this reverse dominance dynamic and makes specific predictions about the signaling that would arise: the Female Cosmetic Coalitions (FCC) model (Power & Aiello, 1997;Power, 2009;Power et al., 2013). ...
... Following the logic of concealed ovulation, they might try to hide the menstruant's condition so that males would not know. But because the signal has potential economic value by attracting male attention, rather than hiding it, females should do the opposite: make a big display out of it ( Knight et al., 1995;Power, 2009). Whenever a coalition member menstruated, the whole coalition should join in amplifying the signal to attract males and their labor to the coalition. ...
... The process of sexual selection whereby choosy investing males discriminate as to which female to invest in will involve ritualized display by coalitions of related females -the reverse of the usual sexual selection dynamic in mammals and birds (Power, 2009). For the first time in evolution, such a sexually selected display will reference a collectively imagined construct, the presence of "blood," "fertility," or "potency" signaled by red cosmetics. ...
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Are there constraints on the social conditions that could have given rise to language and symbolic cognition? Language has emerged in no other species than humans, suggesting a profound obstacle to its evolution. If language is seen as an aspect of cognition, limitations can be expected in terms of computational capacity. But if it is seen it as fundamentally for communication, then the problems will be found in terms of social relationships. Below a certain threshold of cooperation and trust, no language or symbolic communication could evolve (Knight & Lewis, 2017a); this has been termed a “platform of trust” (Wacewicz, 2017).... In this chapter, I argue that quite specific social conditions were prerequisite for the evolution of language- and symbol-ready hominins. One of the requirements differentiating our ancestors from other African apes was a switch to mainly female philopatry – females living with their relatives, rather than dispersing at sexual maturity – coevolving with an increasing tendency to egalitarianism....How did increasing egalitarianism affect males and potentially “feminize” male behavior for cooperative offspring care? How were male and female relations affected in the evolution of genus Homo and Homo sapiens?
... The Female Cosmetic Coalitions (FCC) model (Power, 2009;Power et al., 2013) fills out this reverse dominance dynamic and makes specific predictions about the type of signal ing that would arise. It focuses on female collective strategic resistance to dominant males who refuse to invest. ...
... Following the logic of concealing ovulation, they might try to hide the menstruant's condition so that males would not know. But because the signal has economic value in attracting male attention, rather than hide it, we predict females will do the opposite-flaunt it (Knight et al., 1995;Power, 2009). Whenever a coalition member menstruated, the whole coalition joined in advertising and amplifying the signal to attract outsider males and their labor to the coalition. ...
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This handbook is currently in development, with individual articles publishing online in advance of print publication. At this time, we cannot add information about unpublished articles in this handbook, however the table of contents will continue to grow as additional articles pass through the review process and are added to the site. Please note that the online publication date for this handbook is the date that the first article in the title was published online. For more information, please read the site FAQs.
... Females within coalitions would begin to use blood-coloured substances as cosmetics to augment their signals. This is the Female Cosmetic Coalitions model of the origins of art and symbolic culture (Power 2009;Power, Sommer and Watts 2013). ...
Chapter
Lionel Sims’ work has illuminated how Neolithic ritual communities ‘solarised’ the moon, deceptively transforming a lunar syntax into a solar one. But where did the ‘time-resistant’ lunar syntax come from? It is unlikely that patriarchal Neolithic societies invented this form of time-keeping. Yet it persists even in modern patriarchal ‘world’ religions derived from Neolithic forebears. Marx said ‘All forms of economics can be reduced to an economics of time'. How a society organises time reveals what it truly values. The question of the earliest human economy cannot be solved without a focus on women, the moon and menstruation. African hunter-gatherer cosmology takes the lunar cycle as the crucial timeframe for ritual, sex and economic activities. The shared sources of this cosmology carry us back to earliest human symbolic culture, the very origins of art and ritual itself, over 100,000 years ago. Contrary to presumed Neolithic gender relations, these hunter-gatherer societies are among the most gender egalitarian on earth. But how does such egalitarianism work? Women especially assert power through their bodies collectively to resist any threat of male exploitation. As the moon waxes and wanes, the dynamic of power switches in more or less playful battles between the sexes. Rather than patriarchy or matriarchy, we observe lunarchy – rule by the moon, expressed in a pulse of waxing and waning, ritual power ON, ritual power OFF.
... The bulk of social anthropologists and a good many evolutionary anthropologists concur that food sharing is a form of intentional consumption leveling integrating a larger set of intentional leveling strategies that allow the continued existence of hunter-gatherer egalitarian political life by keeping in check the accumulation of prestige and social influence that could disrupt the balance of power between individuals and families (Boehm, 1999(Boehm, , 2012Fried, 1967;Lee, 1988;. This interpretation of food sharing as an intentional leveling device is also supported by a diverse set of evolutionary models that focus on coalitionary strategies (Boyd, Gintis, & Bowles, 2010;Gavrilets, 2012;Power, 2009) and cultural adaptation (Richerson & Boyd, 2005) as drivers of social conformity. Last but not least, it sits well among recent research exploring singular aspects of human experience like social learning (Boyd, Richerson, & Henrich, 2011), derived social structure (Hill et al., 2011), internalization of norms (Gavrilets & Richerson, 2017), and altruistic social preferences (Silk & House, 2016). ...
... Gradualist models have a long pedigree (Darwin 1871), but placed in the time frame of Chomsky's influence, a variety of approaches have emerged that vary in emphasis on the biological or cultural factors influencing the origin of language, and in their interpretation of the archaeological record (e.g. Donald 1991;Dunbar 1996;Noble and Davidson 1996;Mithen 1996;Power 2009;Corballis 2002;Bickerton 1990, Bickerton 2014Coolidge and Wynn 2009;Rossano 2010;Lombard and Gärdenfors 2017). Deacon (1989;, Cousins (2014) and Everett(2017) stand apart from other gradualists in using Peirce's theory of signs. ...
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This paper argues that the origins of language can be detected one million years ago, if not earlier, in the archaeological record of Homo erectus. This controversial claim is based on a broad theoretical and evidential foundation with language defined as communication based on symbols rather than grammar. Peirce’s theory of signs (semiotics) underpins our analysis with its progression of signs (icon, index and symbol) used to identify artefact forms operating at the level of symbols. We draw on generalisations about the multiple social roles of technology in pre-industrial societies and on the contexts tool-use among non-human primates to argue for a deep evolutionary foundation for hominin symbol use. We conclude that symbol-based language is expressed materially in arbitrary social conventions that permeate the technologies of Homo erectus and its descendants, and in the extended planning involved in the caching of tools and in the early settlement of island Southeast Asia.
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This handbook is currently in development, with individual articles publishing online in advance of print publication. At this time, we cannot add information about unpublished articles in this handbook, however the table of contents will continue to grow as additional articles pass through the review process and are added to the site. Please note that the online publication date for this handbook is the date that the first article in the title was published online. For more information, please read the site FAQs.
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Public ritual acts convey strategic information about the qualities of ritual actors. Although a prolific literature has examined their role in coordinating collective action in a variety of contexts, one of the most common communicative functions of ritual behavior in nature, i.e. its role in signaling mate quality, has received limited empirical attention in humans. Moreover, some of the particularities of human mating, such as the difference between short- and long-term pair bonding and the role of family pressure in mate selection, have also been relatively neglected in the context of ritual. We conducted an experiment to study mate preferences among Tamil Hindus in Mauritius. We found that men who practice religious rituals are perceived as better potential short- and long-term mates by young women as well as by parents, and that the latter prioritize those who practice more costly rituals.
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Theory on the evolution of egalitarianism and its relevance to anthropology is described in three sections. The first section carefully defines and delimits usage of the term egalitarianism in anthropology, outlines the form of social organization empirically observed in egalitarian societies, and clarifies the difference between egalitarian and acephalous societies. The second section describes multidisciplinary perspectives on the egalitarian disposition and behaviors found in humans and how these contrast with those of nonhuman primates. Theories on how these behaviors and dispositions may have evolved are summarized. Finally, the roles of gender relations, sexual reproduction strategies, and cooperative breeding are mentioned in relation to the theory on the evolution of egalitarianism.
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