Although hominin fossil data from East Africa argue for a late Middle Pleistocene emergence of our species by ca. 200,000 BP,, the relationship between morphological and behavioral modernity remains controversial. What Glyn Isaac called “the muddle in the Middle” is due to three factors: limited exploration and evidence from the Middle Pleistocene (780,000-130,000 BP), taphonomic problems along with large-scale time-averaging, and lack of chronometric controls. This talk will summarize some existing evidence of human behavior from the African Middle Pleistocene and present new data from East Africa, arguing for a dramatic transition in human behavior between 500,000-300,000 BP, and suggesting that our species’ brains, cognitive abilities and technological and social behaviors deduced from the archaeological record evolved in a feedback relationship long before the eventual dispersal of our species out of Africa.
Alison Brooks, Department of Anthropology, George Washington University