Seven interactive processes involved in increase of brain size
We have outlined evolutionary processes related to 'constructivity', or architecture
in the anthropological context. We considered stone tools from their potential to
be used as cutters for fibrous materials which, as it was maintained, might have
produced a 'first architectural revolution'. 'Seven interactive processes' can be distinguished:
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 - in great contrast to conventional reconstructions
- our 'prehistory' based on the anthropological definition of material culture, describes
an age of 'great cultural discoveries' parallel to the period of increasing brain size. This age was initiated basically by the tools, but becomes effective
only if seen in view of the tools' impacts on preexistent pre-lithic fibro-constructive
industries. If both are combined, they show a tremendous power to relate hominoids
and hominids to their environment. Consequently, did the human brain develop with implications
that were all ultimately related to construction, to building, to architecture in
the anthropological sense? It seems fairly plausible. The brain of modern man did
not considerably evolve further in size. This could indicate that this age of discoveries
based on constructivity had on one side formed a tremendous stress on hominid memorising
capacity, but that once this 'new order' was accomplished, it became part of human orientation.
- 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
- The development of (topo-)semantic architecture (signs for migration, dwelling,
- The potential of other derived artifacts (traps, baskets, storage, weapons etc.)
- The development of domestic architecture from semantic architecture (access-place
- The development and implications of controlled fire, derived from semantic architecture
('symbolisms of fire')
- The development of polarity and the cognitive integration of natural forms into
human perception. Polarity can be considered the 'primary ontology' of hominids since
the 'Middle Paleolithic', maybe related already to early Homo sapiens.
- The development of language (relatively late)
4. TERRITORIAL CONTROL AND SEDENTARISATION
In a separate paper written for archaeologists we described in more details how the
same method of superseding prehistorical sources with hypothetical sources reconstructed
in the framework of architectural anthropology is also valid in regard to our third subject: increasing territorial control, domestication and sedentarisation. If we
look prehistorically at processes related to territorial control, like 'broad spectrum
food control' (Mesolithic), 'permanent village culture' (Neolithic), 'formation of
cities and states with social hierarchy' (Bronze Age), we can clearly assume that these
were not isolated events, but that they are structurally connected, that they correspond
to developmental processes. But, how did all these new cultural traits develop? How were the first empires in Mesopotamia, in Ancient Egypt formed?
The prehistorian takes the finds 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, interprets them
in their specific historical context. In the anthropological framework of material
culture the discussion is different. Arguments profit from the systematic approach. The totality
of phenomena related to 'constructivity' provides us with a considerable amount of
technological, formal, functional and social conditions which can be used for the
interpretation of sources.
The Embers give the following 5 sources or source-levels as important for the corresponding
(1) Middle paleolithic
: Burials where flowers were used to decorate the place of the deceived (acc. to pollen
analysis, ~60'000ya, Shanidar).
(2) Upper paleolithic
: Rock art with striking female figurines.
: Broad spectrum food collecting. Increasingly sedentary communities.
: Permanent village cultures with domesticated animals and plants.
(5) Bronze age
: Formation of cities and states with differentiated social hierarchy (theocracy)
and full time craft specialists.
The first two sources (1) and (2) of this list are in general attributed to religion.
The first stands for the belief into supernatural spirits or souls related to death,
the second rather to primitive or magic cults and rites. In the framework of architectural anthropology, all five sources can be recognised from a common factor, the
(1) The burial flowers of Shanidar are interpreted as part of a fibrous topo-semantic
system on a level where this includes demarcated resting places for the deceived
of a habitat group. The Shanidar finds support the existence of fibrous or fibro-constructive topo-semantic signs for the Middle paleolithic.
(2) Many symbolic representations in rock art like 'tectiformes' indicate that their
prototypes were not natural objects but artifacts, partly very explicit hut constructions
('tectiformes' proper) or objects built and bundled with fibrous materials, partly geometrical (bundled) 'tectiformes', partly alluding to animal heads or female figurines.
Structurally and formally they all can be interpreted as representations of fibro-constructive
'semantic architecture' as described in Egenter 1994b (plates 1-7). Eventually they were related to polarity, thus showing traits of an early harmonious
ontology. The implications of architectural anthropology for rock art are dealt with
more in details in an article published in Semiotica (Egenter 1994a).
(3) Prehistory characterises the Mesolithic by increasingly sedentary communities
and by 'broad-spectrum food collecting'. Both characteristics presuppose some rules
of arrangement and systems of orientation. This is discussed in archaeology gradually
(landscape archaeology) but the approach has difficulties, because there are not sufficient
sources. However, in the framework of an anthropological definition of material culture,
the concept of 'broad spectrum food collection' can be used as a comparative basis to ethnology. As mentioned above, among the Ainu, we can clearly show that
'broad spectrum food collection' is definitely related to a fibrous topo-semantic
system (Egenter 1990b, 1991a, 1994c). Using highly valued topo-semantic signs (inau) in nuclear (dwelling) and peripheral
conditions (food control). Space is controlled through 'threshold-points' in an system
of categorically structured polar units of space, extending from small local dwelling conditions to considerably large valley systems (Watanabe 1973). This complex system
of categorical polarity is also used to control time, define social roles and for
the organisation of cooperative interactions. In short, comparison with the culture
of the Ainu provides indicators of the structural conditions and ontological principles
on which this type of territorial control could have developed. Very likely there
was not only broad-spectrum food collection, the dwelling environment would have
to be assumed under similar control.
(4) The neolithic period stands for permanent agrarian settlements and domestication.
Wilson (1988) described these processes in the framework of conventional cultural
anthropology. More or less permanent occupation of a defined territory became important
with pastoralism and agriculture. Note that plants and animals were also domesticated.
But, how were settlements organised, protected? In the framework of architectural
anthropology, we can assume that the topo-semantic demarcation systems which had
developed earlier in the Mesolithic period with 'broad spectrum food control', became
dominant and highly valued in Neolithic times. Five processes can be reconstructed:
Thus, theoretically, what we call 'semantic architecture', acting as non-written
archives of settlement history, must have been of basic importance in neolithic settlements.
The archaeology of the Neolithic period has only fragmentary sources for this hypothesis. But, using the 'metabolism-theory' of W. Andrae related to Mesopotamia
and Ancient Egypt (1930, 1933; Egenter 1994b, 1998a), it can be inferred that 'proto-dynastic'
or neolithic villages had similar institutions of territorial control. There are very clear indicators for this e. g. in predynastic Egypt (cult-boats on pottery).
The high plausibility of the hypothesis is supported mainly by the wealth of sources
found on durable materials in the Bronze Age and the early city and state cultures.
This will be discussed in the following.
First, 'nuclear demarcation systems' must have gained great importance with permanent
settlements. Village boundaries were not traced peripherally, but were set up at
nuclear points of the settlement. Its territory was defined from inside out with
relatively vague outer boundaries. Polar categories expressed by the demarcation were projected
onto adjacent surfaces.
- In increasingly permanent habitats, the pars-pro-toto relation of the sign and the
corresponding territory had become firmly established. It protected the permanent
settlers from intruders who adhered to the same system.
- The structural condition of the signs, resp.. the expression of 'categorical polarity'
had become an established ontological value, particularly by the cognitive processes
it had provided (cognitive integration of natural forms; signs as models of harmonious organisation of space, time and social relations). This symbolic or aesthetic
value system too provided protection against intruders if they adhered to the same
- In addition, permanent dwelling in the same territory created social hierarchy based
on the cyclically renewed topo-semantic demarcation system. The founder who first
occupied the land for the settlement, is considered initiator of the existence of
all later inhabitants. The cyclic renewal of the demarcation system functions as archive
for the settlement foundation. The lineage of the founder house plays a dominant
role in the cyclic renewal of the demarcation system (personal unity of social roles
as land-organiser, ruler and priest; 'settlement core complex'; see Egenter 1994a).
- The fibro-constructive topo-semantic system was used primarily as a nuclear control
of the settlement and/or individual dwellings, but was also used for agricultural
production. In the wider habitat it functioned as a non written constitution and
thus protected the settlement.
(5) In the framework of Bronze Age archaeology there are many attempts to clarify
the basic impulses which led to the formation of early cities and states (Ember/
Ember 1993). Focusses are on irrigation systems, population growth and trade. None
are convincing. However, if we interpret many sources of early civilisations not historically
as a beginning or invention, but try to understand them anthropologically, as part
of a transitional field, many sources appear in a very plausible new light. More
in details: if we assume a substrate of village cultures with cyclically renewed fibro-constructive
topo-semantic demarcation systems as their ontologically highest outfit (sanctuaries,
temples, seat of deities) we could easily understand that the transformation of this fibrous type of material culture into durable form, its 'metabolism' into
enlarged monuments must have had important impacts. Temporally it meant a transition
from cyclic time to linear time. Socially the locally developed political structure
('settlement core complex', Egenter 1994a) is lifted on a higher level (unity of ruler, territorial representant, king). Spatially
this implies extended territorial control. Monumentalised demarcations of the centralised
topo-semantic system are diffused into peripheral agrarian settlements to bring them under control (central cult with tributes, tax administration, priests)
Many archaeological sources of Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt support these structural
developments of a monumentalised topo-semantic system (Egenter 1995). There are a
lot of sources related to demarcations. We find 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 (Djed pillar;
pillar of Egyptian unity on thrones) and pylons alluding to fibro-constructive implications, in particular to reed construction (Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia). There
are quite many sources that document sanctuaries with fibrous topo-semantic markers
arranged according to the access-place scheme (Egenter 1994b :31, 32). Very important are the earliest script tablets of Uruk (Egenter
1984, 1998*, focussing on the origins of script). Most of these materials clearly
indicate their fibro-constructive roots (Andrae 1930, 1933, Heinrich 1957). Most
important is the Egyptian cult system and its constitutional evolution (H. Kees 1980).
In the framework of recent post-mythical Egyptology, Kees describes the Egyptian state formation as a
development from local settlement cults to regional settlement clusters and finally
to the imperial cult system with its territorio-political implications.
We illustrated the function of 'topo-semantic demarcation' (or 'semantic architecture')
in the evolution of territorial control. In its monumentalised form the primary fibrous
topo-semantic element develops into a new civilisational factor. The temple (or the temple city) uses the monumentalised topo-semantic element to extend its territorial
control over large stretches of agrarian village clusters. In short: can architecture
be seen as an evolution of topo-semantic demarcations? Can culture in some important traits be related to topo-semantic and structuro-symbolic architecture? Did
this evolution leave imprints in human brains? Is the topo-semantic paradigm still
part of human orientation and communication but has been voided of its contents
by the introduction of homogeneous space concepts and rationalised aesthetics?
Man and architecture - a new view
We have seen that architecture in its widest anthropological sense is intrinsically
interwoven with protohuman and human existence, with the development of culture and,
finally, with territorial control of the early civilisations. Very likely man owes
essential traits to early architectural activities, his physical form, namely bipedal
position, hand capacities and flattened face with refined stereoscopic vision. Even
the enormous extension of the human brain might be related to early processes of
architectural evolution. The earliest tools allowed the 'emancipation' from 'rooted buildings'.
An enormous wealth of new techniques, forms and functions had to be learned, new
relations of signs, places and things had to be memorised. Larger brains were selectively of advantage. In the framework of anthropology we plausibly hinted to a cognitive
intensity where archaeology with its rather limited finds would not assume it. But
the evolving brain justifies an 'age of great discoveries' among early hominids.
A wealth of new artificial and natural forms were integrated into cultural perception.
Buildings were the models of cognition. Buildings enabled early civilisations to
Premodern architectural teachings had always had some vague idea of the 'deep structure'
of architectural form. Particularly in 'high' architecture, origins were related
to the highest values, to the divine, to creation. Coded forms like the Ionian or
Corinthian column or the Greek temple front survived more than 2000 years into our times.
Is there, maybe, a new, an anthropological truth in this? Did these columns as signs
and symbols in their originally fibrous forms contribute to hominisation, to culture, to civilisation? Were they important in the formation of art, aesthetics and philosophy,
maybe also for the origins of religion?
Modernism boldly introduced homogeneous space concepts borrowed from physics and astronomy
into the human domain of dwelling and living. To a great extent this dissolved the
anthropologically evolved topo-semantic system of space organisation. Man lost his fundamental relation to place, became increasingly planned as a dynamic entity, a
particle in the physical sense which can be moved anywhere and which is supposed
to be active in whatever ways. The introduction of functionalism from industrialised
technology further helped to cut architecture off from its 'deep structure'. The architect
got rid of his role to learn from the past, declared himself as 'discoverer', as
'creator' of the ever new. Unfortunately, since the breakdown of modernism we know
that these autocratic 'creations' are not as 'sustainable' and 'eternally valid' as many
had thought before. And, according to a prophecy of master architect Mario Botta,
Post modernism, its hastily propagated successor, has already reached its definite
end: garbage for the future!
In this period of 'short lived architectural theories' based on pragmatic rationalisations
and subjective aesthetic ideologies, architectural anthropology has some fairly clear
functions. First, some methodological ones.
With the increasing urbanisation of the world (Istanbul II) architecture has evolved
into a much wider perceptive domain, it has become an important part of the human
condition. Architecture can not merely be considered as 'art' anymore, producing
'slums' at its opposite theoretical end. Neither can architecture simply be rationalised
within its own circles. We must adapt our methods towards wider global horizons,
towards anthropological perspectives. Architectural theory is a matter of the humanities!
The humanities will show us the factual complexity of the architectural product in
its relation to man. Anthropology provides also the systematic framework to understand
these wider meanings. We have shown just one example, the reconstruction of the architectural deep-structure in the field of hominisation. The result is remarkable. It
reveals the demiurgical long-term impacts of architecture. Very likely man owes two
essential features to his architectural past, his vertical body posture and his enlarged
brain. In addition, man as the increasingly domesticated and sedentary species is
a highly relevant aspect of the present human condition.
- It provides an inter subjectively controlled empirical domain in which terms, hypotheses
and theories are scientifically reliable.
- It creates a considerably wider horizon of 'objects' for an inductively proceeding
and systematic architectural research.
- It reconstructs architecture as a primary process of cultural evolution and thus
sheds new lights on the 'deep-structure' and cross-cultural significance of architecture.
- It places man in the theoretical centre and thus fulfils an important need for a
dominantly humanistic theory of architecture.
- It searches for constant factors in the strings of developmental processes. They
might be important in finding new anthropologically valid solutions.
- It constructs a wider interdisciplinary forum which does not only represent the
interests of architectural circles and their supporters, but suggests a wider participation
of the humanities, of anthropology, and their many subdisciplines.
Very likely it is the interdisciplinary access which makes architectural anthropology
particularly valid. Architectural theory appears adapted to the humanities, to anthropology
and thus makes a step towards science. <7> The architectural structure is accessible for the anthropologist. <8> Very likely pressures for the fundamental revision of architectural teachings
will come from this other, scientific side, particularly if anthropologists become
aware that architecture as part of modern education is still structured like a myth
('postmedieval myth of the profaned creator genius') and has therefore great difficulties
to describe its relevant objects and goals in modern scientific ways.
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