Greater than the sum of its parts? Modelling population contact and interaction of cultural repertoires

Nicole Creanza*, Oren Kolodny, Marcus W. Feldman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations

Abstract

Evidence for interactions between populations plays a prominent role in the reconstruction of historical and prehistoric human dynamics; these interactions are usually interpreted to reflect cultural practices or demographic processes. The sharp increase in long-distance transportation of lithic material between the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic, for example, is seen as a manifestation of the cultural revolution that defined the transition between these epochs. Here, we propose that population interaction is not only a reflection of cultural change but also a potential driver of it. We explore the possible effects of inter-population migration on cultural evolution when migrating individuals possess core technological knowledge from their original population. Using a computational framework of cultural evolution that incorporates realistic aspects of human innovation processes, we show that migration can lead to a range of outcomes, including punctuated but transient increases in cultural complexity, an increase of cultural complexity to an elevated steady state and the emergence of a positive feedback loop that drives ongoing acceleration in cultural accumulation. Our findings suggest that population contact may have played a crucial role in the evolution of hominin cultures and propose explanations for observations of Palaeolithic cultural change whose interpretations have been hotly debated.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number20170171
JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
Volume14
Issue number130
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 May 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.

Keywords

  • Archaeology
  • Connectivity
  • Cultural accumulation
  • Migration
  • Population structure

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