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.


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 periods.

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 topo-semantic element.

(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.

(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) Fig. 9.

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 become effective.

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.

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.

Back to part 1