Chapter 14: Homo Sapiens and the Evolution of Modern Human Behaviour
Modern Homo sapiens
Modern humans are characterized by several derived morphological traits, including a
small face and teeth, a pointed chin, a high rounded cranium and a less robust
o Smaller face and teeth were favoured by natural selection because these people
didn’t use their teeth as tools as much as earlier people had.
o Less robust cranium possibly because they relied less on body strength and more
on elaborate tools to do their work.
Archaeological Evidence for Modern Human Behaviour
Archaeological evidence indicates that modern humans in Europe were able to
accumulate adaptive and symbolic behaviour in the same way as we do today.
o The increased sophistication of modern humans partly due to the cognitive
abilities and our ability to pass on such behaviour over successive generations.
▪ Happens from watching and being instructed by others so we can acquire
o Archaeological record indicates that H. sapiens were the first to achieve this
▪ Ecological range- they were able to occupy cold, dry habitats further
north and east than other hominins.
▪ Technology- the range of tools were more sophisticated and were made
from a greater variety of materials, not just stone (e.g. antler, ivory,
bone); also constructed elaborate shelters.
▪ Social organization- raw materials were gathered from a distant source
which suggests they had long-distance exchange networks.
▪ Symbolic expression- they created art, performed rituals and other
o The tool industries created by H. sapiens are called the Upper Paleolithic
Modern humans first entered Australia around 40 kya and they brought along their
tools that are similar to those of the Upper Paleolithic people in Europe.
o To get to island land mass that included Australia, humans would need to cross a
100 km stretch of ocean → so people who first settled on these islands must
have been able to build boats (sophisticated form of technology).
More sophisticated stone tools appeared in Asia at around the same time.
There is controversy over what was happening in Africa between 60 and 30 kya.
o Fossil record during this period is sparse so some argue whether modern human
behaviour did evolve in Africa. Upper Paleolithic Technology and Culture
o Upper Paleolithic people made use of blades which made efficient use of stone
▪ Tool kits that emphasize blades are considered Mode 4 technologies.
o The Upper Paleolithic tool kits contained a large number of distinctive,
standardized tool types (chisels, points, knives, burins, drills, throwing sticks, etc).
▪ Since the tool shapes are standardized, it suggests that the humans
carried out these plans in their minds with a mental model.
▪ They were also the first to shape tools out of bones, antler, and teeth.
o Upper Paleolithic industries also varied in time and space.
▪ Over approximately 25,00 years of the Upper Paleolithic there were
dozens of distinctive tool kits of Mode 4 technology, contrasting the
Acheulean tool kit that remained unchanged for over 1 million years.
o Stone and other raw materials were often transported hundreds of km away
from their origin.
▪ May mean that Upper Paleolithic people ranged over long distances and
they participated in long-distance trade networks.
o Modern humans exploited a wider variety of prey species than the Neanderthals
but the subsistence economies of the 2 populations were similar.
▪ Large herbivores played an important role in diets of the Upper
▪ They also fished, hunted birds, gone for salmon runs.
o The people of the Upper Paleolithic developed more complex forms of shelter
and clothing than the Neanderthals had.
▪ Shelters were made by interlocking mammoth bones to form the
structure, and then covered with hides.
▪ Fur coats, caps, shirts, pants, shoes lavishly decorated by beads were
o Upper Paleolithic peoples were able to cope with the environment better than
▪ Upper Paleolithic people lived in higher population densities than the
▪ Upper Paleolithic people lived longer than the Neanderthals.
• They could retain and transmit more complex knowledge than the
▪ Upper Paleolithic peoples were less likely to suffer from serious injuries
or disease than the Neanderthals.
o There is good evidence for ritual burials during the Upper Paleolithic period.
o Upper Paleolithic peoples were skilled artisans, creating sculptures of animals
and humans and creating elaborate cave paintings.
▪ This was the distinctive characteristic from other hominins. The Origin and Spread of Modern Humans
New evidence indicates that the genes that gave rise to the modern human morphology
evolved from an African population.
o People carrying these genes spread and differentiated into a number of
morphologically modern but genetically varied populations.
o Contemporary patterns of genetic variation, particularly in genes found in
mitochondria, provide information about the origin of modern humans.
▪ 3 properties of mitochondrias make it useful to determine the
evolutionary history of humans:
• Mitochondrial genes are inherited maternally.
• Since mitochondrial genes accumulat