Stone Tools and Cognition: Lessons from Australia
In this talk I will address four topics: What is cognition?; Can we learn anything from brains?; What was the cognitive ability of the Last Common Ancestor?; and, How can we learn from stone tools?
I will emphasise eight aspects of stone tool making and use which show how it required particular cognitive abilities, and provided a selective context for their evolutionary emergence.
The take home lessons are that we must move beyond artefact forms; that the best evidence of behaviour is to be found in the archaeological record; that brain size changes after 0.5Myr may indicate organisational change; that the permanence of stone tool products had an important role in cognitive evolution; that cutting and carrying imply cognitive novelty; and that a cognitive ability to cope with attention distraction permitted planning—the essential requirement for colonising the last New Worlds.