- continued -

Seven processes involved in brain size increase

We have outlined evolutionary processes related to 'constructivity', or building, or architecture in the anthropological context. We considered stone tools from their capacity to use them as cutters for fibrous materials which, as it was maintained, might have produced a 'first architectural revolution'. We characterised this potential from various aspects as 'seven processes':

  1. The transition from rooted to artificially stabilised buildings offered, first, the potential for site selection, combinations of materials, and consequently a high potential for formal and functional variations with increasing complexity and stability.

  2. The development of toposemantic architecture (signs for migration, dwelling, food control)

  3. The potential of derivates (traps, baskets etc.)

  4. The development of domestic architecture

  5. The development and implications of controlled fire.

  6. The development of polarity and the cognitive integration of natural forms into human perception. Under the condition of harmony very heterogenous objects and environments can be perceived in polar categorial analogies. In this sense polarity can be considered the 'primary ontology’ of hominids since the 'Middle Paleolithic', maybe related already to early Homo sapiens.

  7. The development of language (relatively late)

All these processes can be assumed for the period outlined above, the phase of increasing brain size between Homo habilis and Homo sapiens sapiens, archaeologically during the Lower and Middle Paleolithic and in time from about 2 million years ago until 40'000 years ago.

It is evident that our 'anthropological prehistory' - in great contrast to conventional reconstructions, describes an age of 'great cultural discoveries'. This age was triggered basically by the tools, but becomes effective only if seen in view of the tools' impacts on pre-existent fibroconstructive industries. If both are combined, they show a tremendous power to relate hominoids and hominids to their environment.

It is not surprising that, after this tremendous increase in memorizing capacity to which the hominid brain responded during this phase, is at its end with Homo sapiens sapiens. The brain of modern man did not considerably evolve further in size. This could indicate that this toposemantic and toposymbolic age of discoveries had on one side formed a tremendous stress on hominid memorizing capacity (resp. selection favouring those who developed this capacity), but that once this 'new order' was accomplished it became the basis of human orientation and could be used easily henceforth.

So far, we remained focussed on topics not related to territorial control. We wanted to deal with this topic separately, because it is the strongest argument supporting the present approach. We have indicated that toposemantic demarcation is closely related to an increase in territorial control. This aspect shall be dealt with in the following title section.


In the last three phases of the Ember's list prehistory tells us interesting things which imply that Homo sapiens sapiens had gained an increasing sense for place.

We can ask, how did they develop? The prehistorian has no clear answers to this. He takes the finds findings as 'first appearances', lines them up according to the results of dating, describes the 'higher' against the earlier and more primitive. His position is basically 'hermeneutic', he refers to the sources and interprets them in their specific historical context.

In the anthropological framework of material culture the discussion is very different. Arguments are systematic. The totality of phenomena related to 'constructivity' provides us with a wealth of technological, formal, functional and social conditions which can be used for the interpretation of sources. Thus all these different phenomena mentioned in the above five points show a common factor. They imply increasing topological or territorial control.

Of what nature this territorial control might have been is clearly revealed if we reconstruct it backwards from the Bronze Age

Bronze Age

We have a lot of sources related to sacred demarcations (signs of deities [Ishtar], Mesopotamian border stones with drawings of fibroconstuctive huts [Brit. Museum], the whole history of life trees, temples with metabolised reed-sanctuaries, bundle columns and pylons alluding to reed construction [Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia], Uruk script [Egenter 1983 German, English: 1998* On the Origins of Script]). Most of these materials clearly indicate their fibroconstructive prototypes. Using the 'Metabolism-theory' of W.Andrae (1930, 1933; Egenter 1994b), we can then infer that 'proto-dynastic' or neolithic villages had similar institutions of territorial control. We have indicators for this e. g. in predynastic Egypt (cult-boats on pottery) and in the Egyptian cult system and its constitutional evolution (H. Kees 1980). Judging from the complexity (settlement core complex) and cyclic continuity of these institutions rooted in local territorial conditions, we could understand that they were not only supporting Neolithic villages, but must have been at the basis of what the archaeologist describes as Mesolithic 'broad spectrum food collection' and that they had strong impacts on the formation of 'increasingly sedentary communities'. Based on this continuity of territorial demarcation a new theory of state formation could be reconstructed. It is graphically shown in the following illustration.

Fig. 9: Reconstructing early state formation based on territorial demarcation


The fairly surprising main characteristic of the Neolithic period is domestication (Wilson 1988). Not only humans, but plants and animals are also domesticated. More or less permanent occupation of a defined territory became important with pastoralism and agriculture. But, how were the corresponding settlements organised, protected?

Nuclear demarcation and the access-place scheme

Ethnology tells us a very important thing which could never be found with the archaeological method. An evidently very primary type of territorial demarcation was central, not peripheral as is conventionally thought.(Egenter 1994b) The outer borderlines are defined geographically relatively vaguely from the centre towards outside. Nevertheless, this type of territorial demarcation is extremely strong. It functions entirely different. A high identification of the inhabitants with the centre is formed, expressed in high local ontological values. This type of demarcation has impacts on the distance of settlement clusters and on the behavior of their populations. It is effective through socio-spatio-behavioural conditions.

Fig. 10: Nuclear demarcation and access place scheme

Such 'place making' could be extremely simple. In fact, the setup of a nuclear fibrous demarcation at the end of an access path was enough to define a settlement, indicating the transitional point between place and beyond. In a second step the place was marked with a couple of 'gate markers', separating the newly defined place from the accesszone as 'inside'. Repeated gate markers towards outside could define series of 'insides', all hierarchically related to the onotological focus (value-focussed axis).

Anthropologically, most sedentary arrangements, whether temporary or permanent, whether elementary or evolved, whether on the smaller dimensions of a hut, tent or house or on the larger extensions of a settlement, they all show this basic pattern of demarcation. Throughout the history of culture cross culturally, this 'access-place-scheme' shows a surprising continuity (see Oliver 1997) and remained widely intact into pre-modern times, particularly in sacred architecture (Dagobert Frey 1949). The Egyptian temple is essentially such an access-place scheme (or 'value focussed axis') originally demarcated with fibroconstructive signs (Andrae 1933).

In view of such sources, we must assume that 'nuclear demarcation' using the 'access-place scheme' was a fundamental sedentary arrangement that developed primarily with fibroconstructive techniques. We must consequently assume that such fibroconstructive toposemantic traditions were very important throughout prehistory.

Nuclear demarcation became particularly significant with increasing sedentary permanence and density. Neolithic villages

Processes of domestication of plants and animals can be interpreted in the framework of peripheral demarcation.

Later, during Bronze Age, this toposemantic cyclically renewed systems had gained enough importance and stability to be superseded by a higher level of 'metabolised' or monumentalised arrangements using durable materials. They always figured in a spatial nucleus of settlements in the framework of high ontological values.

We could then infer that these patterns had been highly efficient in the process of sedentarisation. In forming the focus of local identification, nuclear demarcation increasingly protected a domain or settlement. First, because the population increasingly identified with it. And second, the population could be organised in unity against outsiders and aggressors. Evidently the concept of 'nuclear demarcation' could explain what supported sedentarisation as a process. Note that the semantic aspect is crucial.

Settlement core complex

The concept 'settlement core complex' is an ethnological reconstruction (Egenter 1994a, b). It describes systems of 'cyclic nuclear demarcation' related to the founder house of a settlement and its descendents. Their heads form the elite of the agrarian village. The representant of the founder line is chief of the settlement and priest at the cyclic renewal of nuclear demarcation. As the descendent of the founder he is often considered the primary ruler over agrarian land.

Prehistorically speaking we can assume that the settlement core complex developed already during mesolithic times, but it became very important during the Neolithic period. With increasing density based on agricultural production, and consequently permanent settling, cyclic demarcation at the same nuclear place became an archive for social hierarchy, distinguishing between founder lines and newcomers. The lineage of the founder house was of primary order in the cults, its representants took the titles of chiefs, rulers and priests of the settlements, based on the greatly increased territorio-semantic and structuro-ontological values projected on nuclear demarcation.

Fig. 11: Settlement core complex

It is fairly clear that early state formation developed from this Neolithic 'settlement core complex' (Kees 1980). This might also be valid for China (Moriya 1950, Köster 1958).


In the ethnological field we can clearly show that the "broad spectrum food collection" phenomenon is definitely related to a fibrous toposemantic system. It is not only used systematically in the framework of peripheral food gathering (hunting, fishing). It is also used for collecting fibrous vegetable materials in various contexts (food, building, fire, clothing). Finally, and most importantly, it is used for sedentary aspects. It is used to secure the spatial existence of dwelling (Kremp, 1928, Egenter 1991a, 1998*,1994c). Note that such toposemantic systems obviously form the core of the existential values of the population and we can assume that the tradition must have been kept with high continuity. These signs might have been used over thousands of years without alterations.

Note that the larger part of the toposemantic system of the Ainu must be considered as an evolved type compared with the signs produced by manipulating grasses. It is done by shaving sticks of wood with a sharp blade to produce freely moving white locks. And the signs are staked into the ground, thus using elementary artificial stability. Many other objects of Ainu material culture indicate that parts of it remained on the level of a 'staking' culture, which might have developed in dry or cold climates where grasses were not available. As a technique it was very likely already present in certain regions of the Upper and Middle paleolithic. Note that the bundling type is still present in the Ainu sign system.

Most striking is the fact that the Ainu did hunting and gathering in very systematical ways relying on their all embracing system of polarity. Spatial, social and temporal polarities formed the basic grid on which all activities were organised. Thus taking the Ainu as a model does not mean a simple retroprojection. It means rather gaining new arguments for shedding new light on prehistory. How broad food collection developed and how it was supported, can be theoretically understood in using such ethno-prehistorical analogies.

Upper Paleolithic

Different types of tectiformes in the framework of palaeolithic rock art are strongly supporting the existence of fairly elaborated constructions (hut-like types) and show also compact, often geometrical forms in which either woven, bound and bundled textures or hour glass-like outlines are shown. Conventionally such forms are considered as "geometrically abstract" or "stylised", but the reasons for such surprising designs are not given. In an article published in Semiotica, the present author argues that 'feminine figurines' and other forms, for instance of the animal head type had fibroconstructive prototypes. The drawings would depict territorial cults where such 'abstract' forms were physically built as fibroconstructive demarcations or semantic architecture (Egenter 1994a). Note that the recent intensification of world wide rock art research (See: International Newsletter on Rock Art) might produce new sources in the near future.

Middle Paleolithic

Place making, using a human system of signs. Regarding the burialmentioned above: the flowers were evidently a sign for a place which hadsome meaning for the group the deceased had been part of. The sign indicates a state in which the place of a deceased is part of the population's demarcated orientation system. We can distinguish a behavioural aspect which corresponds to a very deep rooted human and subhuman tradition: the demarcation of a place. The flowers act as a fibrous marker, as 'semantic architecture'. The grave becomes a place in the local system of places. Semantically a small step, a new type of place. But death and its immobilising power has been recognised and now appears as integrated into the vital system of places. Modern man today considers this as a big step, a strong indicator of culture!

In short, there are a lot of sources supporting the hypothesis that nuclear demarcation with cyclically renewed 'semantic architecture' played an important role in the evolution of culture. Beginning with the use of tools for cutting fibrous construction materials, an architectural revolution was triggered which by its immanent potential for topological and territorial control was not only the 'hidden mover' of brain size in hominid evolution, but prepared a process which has become the most striking characteristic of most humans today: sedentary life offering a high degree of control over food and other goods.


This was only a very short outline. But, the new arrangement of sources, based on the evolutionary concept of the Yerkes (1929) related to 'constructivity', allows us to see three different and important evolutionary processes under the same light: bipedism, brain development and sedentarisation. The four keys to this arrangement are:

    1. the anthropological definition of material culture,

    2. a methodology adapted to this wider horizon,

    3. reconstructing settlement structures in ethnology, AND in primatology,

    4. collecting a wider circle of sources and using systematic behavioural, structural and environmental principles for reconstruction.

What have we gained?

  1. We gain a new term for the periodisation of our anthropological prehistory: "pre-lithic fibrous industries". It may allow us to say, probably the most important protocultural 'material culture' was 22 million years old, much older than the tools.

  2. We gain a new method, namely to reconstruct culture as an evolution of subhuman and human settlement.

  3. We gain also a theory: Evolutionary processes related to constructivity, beginning very likely with Proconsul 22 million years ago as a hominoid fibroconstructive industry with toposemantic functions developed into complex systems of territorial control among hominids and modern humans. Very likely, these processes stuctured hominids and humans in regard to three characteristics, body erection, increased brain size and sedentarisation.

  4. Homo constructor structurans? We might have gained a definitely environmental theory of culture. We can also simply add our paper as a 'history from below' to what J. P. Wilson has developed in his recommendable book 'The domestication of the Human Species'.

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