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Academic & Professional Books  History & Other Humanities  Anthropology  Sociocultural Anthropology

The Oxford Handbook of Human Symbolic Evolution

By: Nathalie Gontier(Editor), Andy Lock(Editor), Chris Sinha(Editor), Francesco D'Errico(Foreword By)
1128 pages
The Oxford Handbook of Human Symbolic Evolution
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  • The Oxford Handbook of Human Symbolic Evolution ISBN: 9780198813781 Hardback Feb 2024 Not in stock: Usually dispatched within 6 days
Price: £160.00
About this book Contents Customer reviews Biography Related titles

About this book

The biological and neurological capacity to symbolize, and the products of behavioral, cognitive, sociocultural, linguistic, and technological uses of symbols (symbolism), are fundamental to every aspect of human life. The Oxford Handbook of Human Symbolic Evolution explores the origins of our characteristically human abilities – our ability to speak, create images, play music, and read and write. The book investigates how symbolization evolved in human evolution and how symbolism is expressed across the various areas of human life. The field is intrinsically interdisciplinary – considering findings from fossil studies, scientific research from primatology, developmental psychology, and of course linguistics.

Written by world-leading experts, thirty-nine topical chapters are grouped into six thematic parts that respectively focus on epistemological, psychological, anthropological, ethological, linguistic, and social-technological aspects of human symbolic evolution. The handbook presents an in-depth but comprehensive and interdisciplinary overview of the state of the art in the science of human symbolic evolution. This work will be of interest to academics and students active in all fields contributing to the study of human evolution.


1. Introduction: Current Topics and Debates in Human Symbolic Evolution / Nathalie Gontier, Andy Lock, Chris Sinha

PART 1: Studying symbolism: Epistemological considerations
2. The evolution of the biological sciences / Nathalie Gontier
3. The evolution of the symbolic sciences / Nathalie Gontier
4. A timeline for the acquisition of symbolic cognition in the human lineageA timeline for the acquisition of symbolic cognition in the human lineage / Ian Tattersall
5. Behavioral modernity, evolutionary synergies, and the symbolic species / Ana Majkic
6. On the aboutness of language and the evolution of the construction-ready brain / Michael A. Arbib
7. The evolution of language and speech: What we know from genetics / Antonio Benítez-Burraco and Dan Dediu

PART 2: Pathways to symbolization: Psychological considerations
8. The evolution of the human life course: The role of culturally driven plasticity / Francesco Suman
9. Artefacts, symbols, and the socio-cultural dynamics of niche construction / Chris Sinha
10. Evolution of intentional teaching / Peter Gärdenfors and Anders Högberg
11. Intersubjectivity is activity plus accountability / Nick J. Enfield and Jack Sidnell
12. The symbolic revolution: A sexual conflict model / Camilla Power, Ian Watts, and Chris Knight
13. Primate parents: Theories, bias, and change in the study of the evolution of parenting / Maria Botero

PART 3: Symbolic lifeways: Anthropological considerations
14. Art, sign, and representation / Elisabeth V. Culley and Iain Davidson
15. Symbols and material signs in the debate on human origins / Antonis Iliopoulos and Lambros Malafouris
16. Culturing the Paleolithic body: Archaeological signatures of adornment and body modification / April Nowell and Amanda Cooke
17. The evolution of music: The development of sonic representation and meaning / Rupert Till
18. Symbolism and archeoastronomy in prehistory / Fabio Silva, Fernando Pimenta, and Luís Tirapicos
19. Exploring the evolutionary pathways from number sense to numeracy / Roslyn M. Frank

PART 4: Grounding symbolism: Ethological considerations
20. How viruses made us human / Guenther Witzany
21. Animal signals and symbolism / Ulrike Griebel and D. Kimbrough Oller
22. Emotion expression, empathic reception, and prosocial behavior: Are they linked in evolution? / Augusta Gaspar
23. Primate cognition in captivity / David A. Leavens and Kim A. Bard
24. Kanzi or can't he? Animal language projects / Heidi Lyn
25. Artifact, praxis, tool, and symbol / Lana M. Ruck and Natalie T. Uomini

PART 5: From protolanguage to language: Linguistic considerations
26. The narrative origins of language / Francesco Ferretti
27. Pantomimic conceptions of language origins / Slawomir Wacewicz and Przemysław Żywiczyński
28. On the structure of early language: Analytic vs holistic language processing and grammaticalization / Tania Kuteva and Bernd Heine
29. Gesture is an intrinsic part of modern-day human communication and may always have been so / Susan Goldin-Meadow
30. Ontogenetic origins of infant pointing / Ulf Liszkowski and Johanna Rüther
31. Reconstructing the origins of language families and variation / Gerd Carling, Chundra Cathcart, and Erich Round

PART 6: Expanding symbolism: Socio-technological considerations
32. The origins of money and its role in modernity / Todd Oakley
33. Force fields of the modern: the symbolic contestation of power / Prem Poddar
34. The evolution of writing systems: An introduction / Alex de Voogt
35. Archewriting: The Symbolic Evolution of Script and Narrative / Rukmini Bhaya Nair
36. Cybercultures / Sverker Johansson and Ylva Lindberg
37. Transcending the rational symbol system: How information and communication technology integrates science, art, philosophy, and spirituality into a global brain / Francis Heylighen
38. Technoscience, transhumanism, and telos / Natasha Vita-More
39. Metaphor, myth, and symbol in the grain of time / Chris Sinha

Customer Reviews


Nathalie Gontier has a background in philosophy of science and comparative anthropology. Her research investigates how evolutionary theories develop in biology, how they are applied to study symbolic (sociocultural and linguistic) evolution, and how they are depicted in diagrams. She is the founding director of the Applied Evolutionary Epistemology Lab and she currently holds a research position at the Faculty of Science of the University of Lisbon. Her work has been sponsored, amongst others, by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology, the European Marie Curie Actions, the American Museum of Natural History, and the John Templeton Foundation.

Andy Lock was Professor Emeritus at the School of Psychology at Massey University, New Zealand. With a background in zoology and developmental psychology, his early research focused on the development of communication and language in infancy and early childhood. He was a pioneering researcher in language evolution and human symbolic evolution and was widely recognised for his work in a broad range of fields including indigenous psychologies, social constructionism and therapeutic practice. He was also known for his innovative and early engagement with online learning and teaching, through his establishment in the 1990s of The Virtual Faculty.

Chris Sinha gained his BA in developmental psychology at the University of Sussex, and his doctorate (cum laude) at the University of Utrecht. His research is in the relations between language, cognition and culture in human development and evolution. Methodologically, his research seeks to integrate cognitive linguistic with socio-cultural approaches to language and communication in the construction of a biocultural approach to human symbolic evolution. He is experienced in field experimental and observational methods in human communication and human development. He has published in disciplines including anthropology, linguistics, education, evolutionary biology, connection science, as well as developmental and cultural psychology.

- Professor Michael Arbib
- Professor Kim Bard
- Maria Botero
- Antonio Benítez Burraco
- Gerd Carling
- Dr Chundra Cathcart
- Dr Amanda Cooke
- Dr Elisabeth Culley
- Professor Iain Davidson
- Dr Dan Dediu
- Professor Nick J. Enfield
- Professor Francesco Ferretti
- Professor Roslyn M. Frank
- Professor Peter Gärdenfors
- Professor Susan Goldin-Meadow
- Dr Nathalie Gontier
- Dr Ulrike Griebel
- Professor Anders Högberg
- Francis Heylighen
- Dr Antonis Iliopoulos
- Professor Chris Knight
- Professor Dr Tania Kouteva
- Dr David Leavens
- Professor Dr Ulf Liszkowski
- Heidi Lyn
- Dr Ana Majkic
- Dr Lambros Malafouris
- Professor Rukmini Bhaya Nair
- Professor April Nowell
- Professor Todd Oakley
- Professor D. Kimbrough Oller
- Professor Prem Poddar
- Dr Camilla Power
- Dr Erich Round
- Ms Johanna Nuria Rüther
- Professor Chris Sinha
- Dr Francesco Suman
- Professor Ian Tattersall
- Dr Rupert Till
- Dr Natalie Uomini
- Dr Natasha Vita-More
- Dr Slawomir Wacewicz
- Ian Watts
- Dr Guenther Witzany
- Dr Przemyslaw Zywiczynski

By: Nathalie Gontier(Editor), Andy Lock(Editor), Chris Sinha(Editor), Francesco D'Errico(Foreword By)
1128 pages
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