Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Social Brain, Distributed Mind$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

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

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM BRITISH ACADEMY SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.britishacademy.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright British Academy, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in BASO for personal use.date: 23 May 2022

A Technological Fix for ‘Dunbar's Dilemma’?

A Technological Fix for ‘Dunbar's Dilemma’?

(p.367) 18 A Technological Fix for ‘Dunbar's Dilemma’?
Social Brain, Distributed Mind

Lawrence Barham

British Academy

A comparison of the archaeological evidence for symbol-based behaviours with the predictions of the social brain hypothesis has created ‘Dunbar's dilemma’. The dilemma lies in a disjuncture between evidence and theory, marked by a long chronological gap between the predicted cognitive potential for syntactic language (500 ka), communal religion (200 ka), and the earliest accepted archaeological evidence for these symbol-based behaviours (135 ka). One possibility is that the predictions of the social brain hypothesis may simply be wrong and these cognitively demanding behaviours developed with later populations of Homo sapiens. Alternatively, the social brain hypothesis may indeed be correct and the dilemma arises from the limited conceptual vision of how to interpret the material record. The resultant narrowing of the evidential gaps that comprise Dunbar's dilemma highlights the potential analytical insight that can be gained from an integrated approach involving evolutionary psychology, neurobiology and archaeology.

Keywords:   archaeology, Dunbar dilemma, syntactic language, social brain, Homo sapiens

British Academy Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs , and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us.