The beginnings of communities in the Levant around 10,000 years ago.
It is interesting to me how profoundly recent this is, about 8000 years ago, and how much this complexity arises alongside agriculture. This is all cultural evolution, as there is not enough time for it to be explained by biological evolution.
Josh, given that the “common descent” definition of evolution fails with this, can we say that “cultural evolution” means people having ideas with consequences? After all, if the Neolithic revolution began with the influence of a 2001 space obelisk, or (more in line with our ideas here) an sudden influx of supernatural wisdom in the garden of Eden, then something very different from perfecting the shape of ones handaxes by trial and error is involved.
Even if agriculture (or some other key idea) were like printing or the internet in opening up vast possibilities, it doesn’t follow that the e-word helps us understand it. Perhaps, without some flash of insight akin to Einstein’s relativity, that first idea would never have occurred.
I would says that cultural complexity arose because of agriculture. Hunter/gather societies are limited in the cultural complexity that can arise. I would say that you couldn’t have a group of writers writing the Bible until you had agriculture and cultural complexity.
I agree with you Patrick, though at the dawn of writing there would still be oral traditions going back centuries. It’s astonishing that we still _have _ narratives from the dawn of writing, and to a degree can connect to the mental lives of those who wrote them.
I agree with you that oral traditions goes back hundreds of thousands of years, perhaps millions of years to the dawn of language. Each family, each tribe have oral traditions that each generation teaches to the next generation. Writings, especially written rules and regulations, are useless and pointless until culture and societies have evolved to be complex enough that the oral traditions of large groups needed to be written down for mass dissemination.
Really? I find that very hard to believe…how?
Yes, but over how long before its corrupted?
My recent thoughts on the limits or oral tradition are here, and echo Joshua’s skepticism.
That said, not all tradition is about history, and I agree that there is an awful long time for human experience to get practical truths right and pass them on in the culture.
For example, one that we can easily trace is tool-making technology: the fact is one can trace Aurignacian or Cro-Magnon or Clovis traditions over many thousands of years - once dad teaches you flint knapping, you never forget, and neither will your son forget any improvements you think of. The effects are cumulative, though the improvements reflect individual genius.
I’m sure that “soft culture” was equally preserved and developed - over 100,000 years you surely learn a lot of reliable informatoion about which plants cure gout or kill animals if coated on spears.
Which leads one to wonder why there has always been such disdain for “primitive folk knowledge”, rather than respect for its long provenance. Maybe one reason is that once written culture arrives, it’s easier to rely on the literati and despise what granny says. So it may well be that peasant remedies in, say, mediaeval Europe had become useless because they were relatively recent tales from mad old wives, rather than timeless tradition. And even if they weren’t useless, what literate apothecary is going to prefer Farmer Bodkin’s remedy to something he read in Galen after years of studying?
Finally, the continuing essential role of “tradition” even in the most literate fields like science is important to remember and well-described by Michael Polanyi - his Personal Knowledge is a must-read.
It is corrupted, embellished, changed, almost immediately.
tool making, hunting, food gathering techniques, food prepping. All these past generation to generation via oral tradition.
You might find this study by a guy who lived in the Middle East for over thirty years fascinating. In it, he recounts his experiences with an oral culture… well, it’s worth the read!
Somewhere we were discussing art. I saw this and it says art to me.
This small carving of a water bird was created c. 33,000 years ago. Thought to be a diver, cormorant, or duck. From beak to tail the figure is 4.7 cm long. The sculpted piece of mammoth ivory, found in the Hohle Fels cave in Germany, may be the earliest representation of a bird.
@Patrick, for your consideration …
DId you do that yourself or did you find it on the internet?