The extension of social relations in time and space during the palaeolithic and beyond

Dwight Read, Sander Van Der Leeuw

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

9 Scopus citations


In recent work, culminating in the book Origins and Revolutions, Clive Gamble has suggested that we need to move away from a focus on the origin of individual, cognitive abilities of modern Homo sapiens towards the development of ‘an external cognitive architecture by which hominins achieved social extension within local groups and a wider community’ (Gamble 2010: 32). The shift in focus, he argues, is away from arational to a relational explanation of behaviour (Gamble 2007); that is, from explanations that account for behaviour by criteria considering the individual in isolation to explanations framed around relations of individuals to both the material and the social domain. Gamble argues that we need to work out the cognitive and emotional requirements necessary for individuals to operate simultaneously within a system of bounded groups and without through extended social relations that transcend local groups. He poses two questions. The first asks about ‘the origins of group identity and … social boundaries which are the building blocks of all subsequent archaeological periods from the Neolithic to the recent, more familiar past.…’, whereas the second, derived from insights regarding the social behaviour of primates, casts the process differently: ‘Here it is how social relations were extended in time and space, which is at issue’ (Gambleand Gittins 2004: 97). More recently and in the same vein he observes, ‘Increasing brain and community size selected for mechanisms that both integrated and separated individuals in local groups’ leading to‘ontological security, psychological continuity and the extension of the self to create the release from social proximity [i.e., non-human primate modes of social organisation based on face-to-face interaction]’ (Gamble 2010: 36–37).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSettlement, Society and Cognition in Human Evolution
Subtitle of host publicationLandscapes in Mind
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9781139208697
ISBN (Print)9781107026889
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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