Friday, October 25, 2013

The Great Leap Forward?

Was there a great leap forward in human cognitive ability 70,000 years ago?

The evidence is mixed and the idea is contested.  e.g., Wiki here, here.
Trade, according to the exhibit in the Smithsonian Institute, had emerged 130,000 years ago. A question is - how much evidence to the contrary is needed to disprove the idea of a great leap forward?

The assumption that such a "cognitive revolution" took place seems to be an important point in  Harari's history of humanity.

Coursera advertises Harari's course as a challenging perspective on history. I doubt it. Otherwise, they would not say this.
Suggested Readings
Participating in the course does not require any reading.
A real challenging perspective on history would point out all the uncertainties and unknowns.

PS:(emphasis added) - while not directly relevant to the Great Leap Forward 70 kilo years ago:
Vol. 338 no. 6109 pp. 942-946
DOI: 10.1126/science.1227608

 Hafting stone points to spears was an important advance in weaponry for early humans. Multiple lines of evidence indicate that ~500,000-year-old stone points from the archaeological site of Kathu Pan 1 (KP1), South Africa, functioned as spear tips. KP1 points exhibit fracture types diagnostic of impact. Modification near the base of some points is consistent with hafting. Experimental and metric data indicate that the points could function well as spear tips. Shape analysis demonstrates that the smaller retouched points are as symmetrical as larger retouched points, which fits expectations for spear tips. The distribution of edge damage is similar to that in an experimental sample of spear tips and is inconsistent with expectations for cutting or scraping tools. Thus, early humans were manufacturing hafted multicomponent tools ~200,000 years earlier than previously thought.