Symposium ‘The African Roots of Human Behaviour’ 15 May 2014

Levallois_coreLeverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies, University of Cambridge, 15th May 2014

 The Middle Stone Age (MSA) archaeological record of Africa contains the behavioural evidence of the origin of our species, Homo sapiens, as well as of 75% of its history. It is within its history that we encounter the first evidence for innovations that are normally associated with modern humans and their societies – ornaments, symbolism, technological complexity, broader subsistence strategies. However, recent research has also shown that the MSA is older than previously thought, extending its early phases to well beyond the origins of modern humans. This is what we have termed the ‘MSA Paradox’ – while modern human evolution is strongly shaped by changes in behaviour and cognition, the material record of this process is neither exclusive to humans, nor inclusive of all early humans, nor shaped by those events that we currently interpret as critical phases in the evolution of humans.

 The MSA Paradox raises many questions –  Should the stone-tool record of past human and hominin behaviour reflect major changes in human cognition, or demography, or biogeography? Is the richer and more nuanced archaeological record a more accurate source of inference about human evolutionary history than the few hominin fossils that exist? What was the adaptive significance of the origins of the MSA? What can we infer from the spatio-temporal distribution of early LSA industries? How much more do we know now than we did 50 years ago? Some of these issues will be addressed from the perspective of scholars working on the MSA in different parts of Africa.

Organisers: Marta Mirazon Lahr, Robert Foley, Alex Wilshaw, Federica Crivellaro

 Attending this event: This event is intended for researchers and students in relevant fields and is free to attend. There are a limited number of places, so please register. An optional lunch is offered (£5) and should be booked before May 9th.

Enquiries: Dr Marta Mirazon Lahr ( or Dr Federica Crivellaro (