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Social Brain, Distributed Mind$
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Robin Dunbar, Clive Gamble, and John Gowlett

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780197264522

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197264522.001.0001

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Firing Up the Social Brain

Firing Up the Social Brain

(p.340) (p.341) 17 Firing Up the Social Brain
Social Brain, Distributed Mind

John Gowlett

British Academy

The mastery of fire is a great human achievement which has helped shape our species. This chapter addresses the wider importance of fire, arguing that it is part of a fundamental motor of human evolution, deeply tied into our biology as well as economy and technology, and indeed a motor of the social brain. It seems likely that fire was involved in this nexus from a very early period, probably back to the time of increases in human brain size in the early Pleistocene, and indeed that it may have been a necessity for the subsequent physical evolutionary and social developments in Homo. Fire may be associated so strongly with imagery, imagination and symbolism in the modern world as a result of its primary role in effecting transformation of materials, and acting to link various strands of material culture.

Keywords:   human evolution, fire, social brain, biology, Homo species, material culture

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