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Elisabeth Culley, anthropology doctoral student in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, will defend her dissertation proposal Wednesday, April 30, at 3 p.m. in SHESC 254.
Committee: Geoffrey A. Clark and Michael Barton (co-chairs), Curtis Marean, Iain Davidson
Title: A Semiotic Approach to the Evolution of Symboling Capacities During the Middle to Late Pleistocene with Implications for Claims of 'Modernity' in Early Human Groups
Abstract: This research uses Classical Semiotics to model the evolution of different symboling capacities in the human lineage and their potential material correlates in the Middle to Late Pleistocene archaeological record. The semiotic model will be tested against the published archaeological record dating from ~200,000 years ago to the Pleistocene/Holocene boundary in four sub-regions of Africa and Eurasia. Results will be discussed in terms of the model’s ability to identify changes in symboling capacities and explain the patterning of symbolic behaviors in the archaeological record. The temporal and spatial distributions of different capacities will also be compared to changes in demographic structure and hominin affiliations, with implications for notions of ‘modernity’ and human uniqueness emphasized. This research pioneers deductive approaches to cognitive evolution and provides a “public-friendly” context through which to teach evolution and scientific methods for accessing evolutionary mechanisms and outcomes. The study will also result in an unprecedented catalog of assemblages from over 3000 sites to be shared and further developed through open-source protocols.
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