Combinatorial technology and the emergence of the built environment

Session Date: 
Oct 11, 2024

So-called implicit compositionality assumes that protohumans and humans may come upon a way to construct an object by subtractive construction (as in chipping stones to make tools) and by additive construction (combining pieces to make a useful construct) without a general concept of alternatives. By contrast, explicit compositionality presupposes that humans would have the ability to discuss and evaluate diverse ways to form new constructs. The issue is whether the first emergence of composite tools (Barham, 2013), including development of adhesives, was itself a mark of explicit compositionality, or whether subsequent cultural evolution was required that accompanied the evolution of language from protolanguage. The evidence for the earliest structural use of wood at least 476,000 years ago (Barham et al., 2023) provides a dramatic extension of the time base for this assessment of the emergence of construction.