Tools produced an architectural revolution

Date: Fri, 8 May 1998 19:12:14 +0100
From: (Nold Egenter)
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This discussion originally started in the Anthro-L. It might also be of
interest for the members of this list.
>Date: Mon, 20 Apr 1998 22:26:09 -0400
>Subject: prime mover?
>From: "Jeri H. Kalogeras" <kalogers@PHOENIX.PRINCETON.EDU> wrote:
>Does anybody know the current state of the "prime mover" controversy
>in brain evolution? As far as I know, it is pretty well-established that
>there was a strong selective force for larger brains when the rapid brain
>size expansion began about 2 myr. But what do anthropologists think is the
>best hypothesis for the prime mover(s)? Language? Toolmaking? Social
>interactions? Outwitting rivals to get mates?
>Date: Tue, 21 Apr 1998 01:43:05 -0400
>Subject: Re: prime mover?
>From: "Jeri H. Kalogeras" <kalogers@PHOENIX.PRINCETON.EDU> wrote:
>The "prime mover" debate began when it was discovered that rapid
>brain expansion in hominids began about 2 myr. Since then there have been
>many hypothesized "prime movers" (toolmaking, language, larger social
>groups, climate changes...) Do you think these theories can be divided
>into feminine and masculine viewpoints like Dean Falk suggests? For
>example, the toolmaking theory would be masculine while the social
>structure theory would be feminine.
>Date: Tue, 21 Apr 1998 09:50:06 -0400
>Subject: Re: prime mover?
>From: J Cook <JCOOK/0002019573@MCIMAIL.COM> wrote:
>Based on the *evidence* that is available, it has to be tool making, at least
>in the beginning. But that doesn't mean that it was tool making "all the way".
>Something must have taken over from tool making, something that required the
>same kind of cognitive activity. That might have been language.
>As for "social interactions", apes have quite complex social interactions, and
>there is little or no reason to suspect that our earliest ancestors' social
>interactions were any more complex than theirs. The same goes for "outwitting
>rivals to get mates".
>Jesse S. Cook III

Date: Thu, 7. 5. 1998 22:46
Subject: Re: prime mover?
From: "Nold Egenter" <>

Question: Was there any "prime mover" in increasing brain size around 2
million years ago among candidates, such as "toolmaking, language, larger
social groups, climate changes" or "outwitting rivals to obtain mates"?

In my view the main problem is that all "candiates" have equally weak
support to be considered as prime movers. We might have to look for "the
prime mover" somewhere else!

Let us emphasise for the moment the impacts of 'material culture'. Firstly,
the "tools" suffer from their very marginal significance in present Pongid
life (McGrew: Chimpanzee Material Culture 1992). And, secondly, prehistory
confronts us with the problem of how tools were used: not exclusively in
the framework of hunting activities but also in cutting plant stems and
wood (Lawrence H. Keeley 1980), thus potentially supporting an
archaeologically invisible "architectural revolution" (P. Wilson 1988, for
the Mesolithic and Neolithic sedentary house).

Note that today the "house" has to be mentioned on the same level as the
Oldowan-tools (Lepoittevin 1996). **Man the builder** enters on the
scene. He has to be considered equal to the toolmaker.

This new importance of the *homo constructor* is also supported by
theoretically assuming "[pre-lithic] **fibroconstructive-industries** for
the Miocene period (theoretical retroprojection of modern routined
nestbuilding of great apes, Yerkes 1929, Sabater Pi 1997, Egenter 1998; ->

This highly plausible assumption of fibroconstructive industries with
perishable materials throughout prehistory could explain "non-durable
construction" as a hidden factor, eventually even an important (prime?)
mover which developed greatly with the discovery and increasing perfection
of tools. Using stone tools for cutting fibrous materials provoked an
important evolutionary step away from "rooted construction" (identity of
biotope and structurotope, great apes) to independent selection of
nesting/resting/camping sites and sites where construction materials were
taken (divergence of bio- and structurotope with appearance of tools).
Anyone familiar with structural conditions in the anthropological framework
may be aware that the apearance of tools might have produced dynamic
processes of building. Different materials could be mixed into the same
construction, using different techniques (binding,
bundling, weaving etc.). Sharp blades and axlike uses might have provided
construction materials with increasing stability and durability.

Increased brain size could be explained by a functionalisation of
fibroconstructive objects mainly in the framework of territorio-semantic
systems using "semantic architecture" for nuclear and peripheral
demarcation. Most importantly, emotional tensions among groups and their
home-ranges would thus increasingly be focussed on objects. These
differentiated systems, however, requested the memorisation not only of
fibroconstructive techniques, structural conditions and forms, but also of
their location(s) within a given environment, and, consequently,
territorial control.

Paleolithic *tectiformes* clearly indicate that fibroconstructive
industries existed early in cultural history (semantic, as well as domestic
architecture). However, factually, fibroconstructive technologies only left
traces if they were combined with durable materials (e. g. stone circles),
but, theoretically, they must have formed the dominant characteristic
throughout the prehistorical habitat.

There are three supporting arguments:

1) Maybe the *historistic definition of material culture* in archaeology
is inadequate for an anthropological problem (evolution of man and material
culture; potential time-span: more than 20 million years). We would have to
define material culture anthropologically, including the concept of
dominantly fibrous material culture of ethnology as a survival of
pre-lithic fibroconstructive industries (Hirschberg/Janata 1966-89).

2) Evidently the human body shows physical traits of its "man the
builder-past" (bipedic position of body, precision grip of hands,
flattening face, focussed view).

3) The high capacity of humans to visually perceive and organise very
complex orders (e.g. semantically, symbolically, socially, in space) may be
a relatively new domain which offers new insights and, maybe better and
richer understandings of the human cultural past.

P. J. Wilson's book "The domestication of the Human Species" (1988) is a
good introduction to this approach. Wilson emphasises the visual and
spatial orders imposed on human behaviour by houses and settlements and
considers these orders as a "diagram" for culture. He proposes the
sedentary and thus fairly evolved conditions of house and settlement
(Meso-/Neolithic) as *prime movers* of higher culture (power, social
hierarchy). Most of what he suggests, however, can also be applied to the
"Oldowan house" as well as - theoretically - to Miocene "[pre-lithic]
fibroconstructive industries" beginning very likely with Proconsul and
continuing - among great apes - until today (nestbuilding/ night camps;

In short, we might suggest **'architecture' as the prime mover**! The tool
was secondary due to minor complexity, but produced an architectural
revolution of increasingly high complexity (subhuman, semantic, domestic,
sedentary architecture, centralised urban habitat with control over
pre-urban rural survivals). It might have been the *prime mover* in brain
development, producing great advantages in regard to territorial control.


Nold Egenter

P.S. The abovementioned authors and books can be found in the bibliography
of the 'Apes Nest Controversy' in our website:

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