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Homo neanderthalensis and the evolutionary origins of ritual in Homo sapiens

Nielsen, M; Langley, MC; Shipton, C; Kapitány, R; (2020) Homo neanderthalensis and the evolutionary origins of ritual in Homo sapiens. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences , 375 (1805) , Article 20190424. 10.1098/rstb.2019.0424. Green open access

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Abstract

There is a large, if disparate, body of archaeological literature discussing specific instantiations of symbolic material culture and the possibility of ritual practices in Neanderthal populations. Despite this attention, however, no single synthesis exists that draws upon cognitive, psychological and cultural evolutionary theories of ritual. Here, we review the evidence for ritual-practice among now-extinct Homo neanderthalensis, as well as the necessary cognitive pre-conditions for such behaviour, in order to explore the evolution of ritual in Homo sapiens. We suggest that the currently available archaeological evidence indicates that Neanderthals may have used ‘ritualization’ to increase the successful transmission of technical knowledge across generations—providing an explanation for the technological stability of the Middle Palaeolithic and attesting to a survival strategy differing from near-contemporary H. sapiens. / This article is part of the theme issue ‘Ritual renaissance: new insights into the most human of behaviours’.

Type: Article
Title: Homo neanderthalensis and the evolutionary origins of ritual in Homo sapiens
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2019.0424
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2019.0424
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Neanderthal, symbolism, over-imitation, cognition, Palaeolithic, behaviour
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology > Institute of Archaeology Gordon Square
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10112771
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