Behavioral modernity

Transition of human species to anthropologically modern behavior / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Behavioral modernity is a suite of behavioral and cognitive traits that distinguishes current Homo sapiens from other anatomically modern humans, hominins, and primates.[1] Most scholars agree that modern human behavior can be characterized by abstract thinking, planning depth, symbolic behavior (e.g., art, ornamentation), music and dance, exploitation of large game, and blade technology, among others.[2][3][need quotation to verify] Underlying these behaviors and technological innovations are cognitive and cultural foundations that have been documented experimentally and ethnographically by evolutionary and cultural anthropologists. These human universal patterns include cumulative cultural adaptation, social norms, language, and extensive help and cooperation beyond close kin.[4][5]

Upper Paleolithic (16,000-year-old) cave painting from Lascaux cave in France

Within the tradition of evolutionary anthropology and related disciplines, it has been argued that the development of these modern behavioral traits, in combination with the climatic conditions of the Last Glacial Period and Last Glacial Maximum causing population bottlenecks, contributed to the evolutionary success of Homo sapiens worldwide relative to Neanderthals, Denisovans, and other archaic humans.[3][6][need quotation to verify]

Debate continues as to whether anatomically modern humans were behaviorally modern as well. There are many theories on the evolution of behavioral modernity. These generally fall into two camps: cognitive and gradualist approaches. The Later Upper Paleolithic Model theorizes that modern human behavior arose through cognitive, genetic changes in Africa abruptly around 40,000–50,000 years ago around the time of the Out-of-Africa migration, prompting the movement of modern humans out of Africa and across the world.[7]

Other models focus on how modern human behavior may have arisen through gradual steps, with the archaeological signatures of such behavior appearing only through demographic or subsistence-based changes. Many cite evidence of behavioral modernity earlier (by at least about 150,000–75,000 years ago and possibly earlier) namely in the African Middle Stone Age.[8][3][9][10][11] Sally McBrearty and Alison S. Brooks are notable proponents of gradualism, challenging European-centric models by situating more change in the Middle Stone Age of African pre-history, though this version of the story is more difficult to develop in concrete terms due to a thinning fossil record as one goes further back in time.