Please keep these going man. They’re always a great read

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Really enjoyed this full essay, I have converted this whole post (minus the footnotes) into a multi voiced AI reading, I spent quite a bit of time pre-prepping and making sure it all converted properly, I am really happy with this full 3-hour output. I'd encourage anyone who wants to read this but reads more effectively with their ears to try it out.


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Thanks! Just edited this essay to included a link to the narration in the intro

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Apr 6Liked by Andrew Cutler

Great as always! I want to suggest some more ways to falsify the hypothesis:

Which other snake myths exist from bronze age, neolythic and paleolythic times? And by "other" I mean some other snake myths that a pictoric or literary reference to them would be false positives in your research.

I can point out to the magnificent YouTube channel Crecganford, who explains the origin of the flood myth. He posits two main sources for it: the original from Africa, and a main branch from Sundaland, which had vast territories flooded at the end of the Ice Age. The first of those stories involve serpents, the second one involve dragons.

Regarding the use of milk in Indian and Greek mysteric rituals, Crecganford explains that PIE domesticated the cow and first acquired lactose digestion capabilities.

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>I can point out to the magnificent YouTube channel Crecganford, who explains the origin of the flood myth

I like Crecganford, and have watched most of his videos. IMO he inherits a lot of academia's hangups on the oldest myths. As I understand it, the model he presents for the Flood Myth is it being 100 kya and then diffusing with the Out of Africa migration. Then the Australian version being modified (or independently invented) with the flood of sundaland. I don't think there is any reason to think that myths can last that long and still be recognizeable. Most parsimonious answer is that that the global myth is a cultural memory of raising sea level after the Ice Age. Hard for mainstream academics to say that b/c myths aren't supposed to be about anything. Doubly hard when one would have to grant a kernel of truth to the story of Noah or Atlantis. Seen as much less "crank" to do so for Australian myths.

>Which other snake myths exist from bronze age, neolythic and paleolythic times?

One perhaps-global snake myth is their association with water. No obvious connection to consciousness. Don't think it causes any problems for EToC though.

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Apr 1Liked by Andrew Cutler

will you please explain the evolution of the anti-I movement (ego death). Also, if self-ego led to culture, what would ego death for all sentient beings lead to as is the goal of buddhism?

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"I" produces suffering. One may even say *all* suffering, but that is up for debate. Once we developed writing more sophisticated ideas accumulated, perhaps the most important was what to do about "I." Buddhism found a way to undo--or see through--the "knot" of the self. Christianity, with which I have far more familiarity, is also an answer of what to do with an ego. "Turn the other cheek," and "love thy neighbor as thyself" is a sort of recipe for ego-negation. If you take Brian Muraresku's ideas seriously, early Christianity also featured psychedelic ego death, borrowed from mystery cults such as those dedicated to Dionysus or Isis.

I'd like to write a whole post on the Axial Revolution. Theology/philosophy seemed to figure out sophisticated ways of dealing with ego in Persia, Greece, Israel, Egypt, and India in the mid-first millenium BC. Something was definitely in the water.

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Thanks for this. It was worth the wait.

I find the perspective from footnote 50 particularly compelling. Also, it is insane that there is a footnote 50 🤣

Anyway, the case looks a lot stronger when suddenly it turns out individual pieces of the puzzle have been extensively argued and researched and the original contribution is about putting them together. I would really like to see this level of effort directed to alternatives to the EToC. Do you know of any? One epistemological problem I'm very interested in is in estimating confidence in theories when there is a lack of coherent alternatives to them!

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Mar 11·edited Mar 11Author

Thanks, was waiting for your reaction!

There are lots of books written about alternatives. I hinted at it, but one of the largest problems they have is they assume humans must have finished evolving before any genetic split. Well, even that is not consistent. Sometimes the standard is just 40-100 kya, before the migrations out of Africa. I’m not sure what their model is for what was happening in Africa, given there are splits that go back 300kya. Whatever process produced sapient humans there after a split could ostensibly apply out of Africa as well.

This model needs to at least be relaxed because there is incontrovertible evidence of widespread selection in the last 50 kya, and indications that the changes were large. This is usually explained by adaptations to local climate (ie, temperature regulation), but not for any principled reason other than evolution and intelligence is taboo.

To me some of the most compelling evidence for short timelines is that the foundations of culture around the world seem to form a phylogeny. That is: serpent myths, creation stories, bullroarers, initiations, and secret societies. A lot of this evidence is ambiguous, but not so much with the Seven Sisters and bullroarers. For the Seven Sisters, every researcher I encountered treated it like it was at 100,000 years old on very weak evidence that Australia and Sub-saharan Africa have been culturally isolated. Mostly this is treated as an oddity, and researchers don’t then act like information can survive in other myths in any useful way. The bullroarer seems to be simply ignored. It’s very strange!

The strongest evidence against short timelines is ochre use going back 800 kya. It's very sporadic that far back, and becomes habitual maybe 200 kya. It's also ambiguous if the ochre was used for ritual body decoration, given it is also used for wood preservation, leather tanning, sun screen, camouflage, and traditional medicines.

There are also early Homo populations in places that may require boating, such as Australia 65 kya. But this is also ambiguous as it could be something like a small raft that gets blown off course. Or there could have been Homo there much longer, and that is merely the first evidence. There was another peak of an Ice Age 120 kya, when sea levels were even lower. I'm not sure why migrations then are not considered for Australia or Pre-clovis America.

>One epistemological problem I'm very interested in is in estimating confidence in theories when there is a lack of coherent alternatives to them!

Me too brother! I sometimes think "what are the odds I give EToC?" and am completely adrift. Part of the motivation to write it. Get other opinions. There's also the hubris (?) of trying to understand all of the alternative theories, and weight what evidence is important. EToC looks good if you think bullroarers and the primordial matriarchy need explaining. The thing is other researchers don't.

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A Gday Andrew, from Tasmania

I think the time frame is way off (I think it is a slow grind in the paleolithic with a noticeable pay-off recently, I don’t think it is “I” arising however, more like “other-I” which magics why we should) but I like the story. It's Sunday and have more time, thanks for writing this.

My passion project on this theme started at https://www.academia.edu/40978261/Why_we_should_an_introduction_by_memoir_into_the_implications_of_the_Egalitarian_Revolution_of_the_Paleolithic_or_Anyone_for_cake

years later I started the blog here abouts at https://whyweshould.substack.com/

ⓐ also read thismorning c.f. https://www.razibkhan.com/p/the-longer-i-live-the-wronger-i-get

More thoughts/comments/notes as reading, I jump around a bit:

①"native dualism"

my position is that this is an outcome of the Janus dance, when it doubles-down on it's naive power -- even the yinyang symbol does this, (might be an outcome of bilateral symmetry...? or vice versa??) https://whyweshould.substack.com/p/the-janus-ratio

②"The impulse to make art and search for meaning was not always found in our species. …."

religion/art/performance/rites/routine/plays/staging/fashion/bodypaint/painting are an outcome of the (moral) worlding urge, or if recursively doubled-down it becmes a culture’s passion project as a the “world-building”’reality’(aside: we double-down a lot --- in some French philosophies (Deleuze) this is called intensifying or re-intensifying) this turns a routine into rite, the ritual into a doctrine, and a doctrine into dogma -- the medium of intensification is the social/political space created by the success of the routine in the first place) (if we do this internally we get identitarian politics -- from socially created identities -- unless one is autistic like me of course)

—thus your "Rather, it’s a tic of whatever environments humans have been living in over the last 50,000 years." is correct, the social landscape rather than the terrain mostly (In Australian Aboriginal culture (e.g. tjukurrpa) these are not separated out, they are the world,

③"Time gobbles up evidence. " we have to create a taphonomy of our social landscapes and strip back the intensifications (social ontologies, dogma, identities, build worlds) and see how they fossilise themselves: https://whyweshould.substack.com/p/divining-the-gap

④ "soul" https://whyweshould.substack.com/p/reading-the-relativistic-brain-how

⑤ oral history, millennia http://link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007/978-94-007-3934-5_9966-1

⑥ "My thesis is that women discovered “I” first"

(See also/ have you seen?) Ellen Dissanayake's stuff for an excellent frame on all this. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ellen_Dissanayake More about special nurturing than feminine insight, in a negotiated multi-modal fitness landscape, raising empathically children into specialness and then breaking them with the reality principle without creating a psychopath/narcissists takes some doing... [[[[ much of the moral/worlding urge I go on about is geared to work policing non-empathic narcissists who break the cross-insurance of hunter-gatherer success paterns (Given Trump/Putin/Boris Johnson et al... we are currently not policing them very well) (multi-modal = where other animal species have one or two niches, humans exploit at least two and negotiate who does what, I suspect the crux you are pointing out has more to do with this being done more successfully allowing a quicker response time to change and so expansion into new geographic zones. Even before this doubles down into economies and stratified societies)

⑦ Epistemic status: me? about the same, I like to generate poetic rumination on the theme but...

⑧ I seemed to have missed Michael Corballis, will chase he is “certain” I suspect we are all wrong on these guesses, either way.

⑨ I’ve begun interrogating the I/we assumptions in ‘teh’ west at https://whyweshould.substack.com/p/games-in-the-hide-of-our-names (I’ll add here that ‘We’ is not prior to ‘I’).

⑩ “But these arguments are scattered across posts,” LOL

⑪ My how we load (double-down) on some pronouns and not other at times (why are we dicussing the plural you more)


⑫ What makes us human?

ⓐ stories need no accuracy because their primary power lies in organising, and negotiating that organising, those groups (of I’s or not-I or we-s or us-I) who do not even try to organise themselves are less likely to survive, this is why we have no organ for truth (maybe one for lies but that is another story) we just do stuff and feel we should, because there can be no iteration (routine or learning) with out starting the journey with a single (mist-)step.

Perhaps the I is a mistep.

⑬ Recursion is useful


ⓐ “But Humans aren’t computers” again see https://whyweshould.substack.com/p/reading-the-relativistic-brain-how at least as a re-framer [ power of the first (mis-)step??] (I mention “I am in a strange loop” in introducing their book)

ⓑ Terrence Deacon is good on a non-Chomskyan non Steven-Pinker Language Acquisition Device (LAD) (black-box recursion). For what its worth I think this is the Janus dance of consciousness per se, so this power-up focussing on the “I” is great, but the “I” might be just an outcome of that doubling-down recursively (in a good way). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terrence_Deacon

© I had a blog for a while riffing on the monomyth, using the Hans Christian Anderson story of Thumbelina as a contra-myth. The monomyth is just a hunter’s story, (there and back again, successfully connecting three vectors of movmeent, and retuning into balance) leaving out the other side of the paleolithic negotiating side, the gathering movement, which we see in Thumbelina as one damn WTF moment and circumstance after another.

Consciousness is a series of WTF moments that dance on the threshold…. — as I mentioned before

I’ve a side project on the seven sisters, excellent exhibition :

Neale, Margo and National Museum of Australia (Canberra). Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters : [Exhibition, Canberra, National Museum of Australia, 15 September 2017 - 25 February 2018 and Travelling, 2017.] ISBN 978-1-921953-29-3

This song line moves across Australia (the entire continent that is ) from West to East. Compare that to your Roman Empire maps at greatest extent. Across not just languages but language groups. Who needs a imperial government to generate a continental wide culture and negotiated world??

A nice coin too https://www.ramint.gov.au/sites/default/files/2020/Media_Release/2020-1-coloured-fine-silver-star-dreaming_the-seven-sisters-uncirculated-coin_rev.jpg

Weak EToC

See Dissanyake for another frame on this discussion.

I am beginning to repeat myself so I’ll lay off for now on the point by point responses.

_________final thoughts________

It might be, at your inflection point ~59-60K years ago, cultures could maintain and create better ‘I’s because they became better parents, and not that the ‘I’s first appeared fully formed like Athena from her father’s thigh.

I.E. what the primatologists and evolutionary anthropologists put forward (like de Waals). I think they are on the money. With Dissanyake on how it is done.

That we finally should on others, and in this way we can better police the non-empathic narcissists and pscyhopaths, and this lead to greater organisation capabilites, recursively, in organising the world by way of rasing better ‘I’s, a legacy that stratified societies have begun frittering away by raising structures that reward and double-down on promoting narcissism. (Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World)

Narcissists in a sense have no I, because they are the world, much more than just the center of it. They emotional toddlers for whom the reality principle (recognising there are other ‘I’s out there) has never been accessible (parental failure or biological impossibility --- e.g. psychopaths).

One can put it the other way too. Narcissists have no world, because they only have their I.

Being able to negotiated that I/world/I and world/I/World healthily is proabably more key than having as I per se.

The rest of us dance our consciousness like Janus on the threshld between inside me and outside me, between you and me, between us and them, between my body and the dirt, in a multi-modal range of movements (hunting/gathering/teching recursively) across a hyper-dimensional socially negotiated/constructed world united by the seven sisters above us. Between the I and the world we shouldily dream into place

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First time I've ever (knowingly) talked to someone from Tasmania. Interesting place!

>I’ve a side project on the seven sisters

What do you think the function of the myth is in Australia? Have you tried to do a comparative study elsewhere?

>I don’t think it is “I” arising however, more like “other-I” which magics why we should)

Evidence for this would be that other animals pass the mirror test so there seems to be some sort of "I." Is that mostly just a body map? It makes sense to me that the "I" humans refer to came after the super-ego (what you call the other-I).

>religion/art/performance/rites/routine/plays/staging/fashion/bodypaint/painting are an outcome of the (moral) worlding urge

In some ways that is the EToC model. The force of the superego is what produced a recursive ego, aware of itself. But I think that the very first experience of "I" wasn't necessarily about morality. Someone thought "I am" before the "I am a moral agent who will one day die" we read about in Genesis.

>A nice coin too

Very cool! thanks for sharing

>It might be, at your inflection point ~59-60K years ago, cultures could maintain and create better ‘I’s because they became better parents, and not that the ‘I’s first appeared fully formed like Athena from her father’s thigh.

Thank you for interpreting the theory as "better parenting" rather than just glomming on to the bits about snake venom!


One thing that is interesting, is that men are way more likely to be narcissism. If one conceives of narcissism as "more I" than that would be evidence against women evolving "I" first. But, as you say, "more I" is not a good conception of narcissism.

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Welcome to Tasmania, we are having a stupendous late summer season

Covert or victim narcissists are split 50/50.

Grandiose narcissists are split 80% male 20% female (psychopaths are a subset of grandiose, even more skewed to maleness apparently).

They all think they are special, but some are more careful of what others do, because they know what they can do. Some are so special they do not need to take care.

The moral agent thing, your causal chain is correct, but I use moral here not in terms of an agent, but for/in the way we body/live our lives/bodies in an 'extended phenotype' that is socially negotiated (often called the world), i.e. we have an urge (that is selected for) to do this 'worlding' this morallising, this talking, this partying, but most of its "transmission" is not done through a genetic bottleneck, in which case a moral agent is an outcome (of parenting) as much as the songs sung to convey and instruct. The I is a creative act.

There is an urge to world (-build), i.e. get organised with others, which in English is covered in the phrase '…something should be done!" — this feeling, this is an emotional drive to socialise (even if it is a "I am beholden to no man" SovCit thing).

Analogy: We have a basic drive we can call hunger, but hunger does not tell you how to bake a cake, so by analogy, the worlding urge does not tell you how to bake/moralise a cake/agent. Simply that you should., and should expect others to should to.

I am no transcendentalist seeking to find a single mutation to account for what is immanent in any increase of complexity in evolution. Recursive or otherwise.

Singular acts of creation are myths that makes us feel special. Its function can be to raise us up into personhood, like a birthday celebration cheers us, but where, eventually, hopefully, we mature in meeting the reality principle. Most of the year is not a birthday nor a nameday. You can label that a superego, but it is a moment of realisation carried forward not a separate thing in a head. (You can double-down on it into guilt or shame if you like though,)

The myth of the seven sisters is ancient as we know...

<<check wikipedia for a bit .... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pleiades

oh Look it has its own page: FAB: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_Aboriginal_astronomy#Seven_Sisters >>

(we have an excellent view of the Pleiades in the southern hemisphere),

so its function depends on when and where someone is baking a mythic pie. On the mainland of Australia, the story arcs over a fast distance and each locality/people-on-country will have its own responsibilities with local functions.

I collect variations really on the usages, the side project has no intent besides "Look!"

What is its point as an ancient story?? What does it point to????? Yes, I have no idea.

Perhaps in a taphonomical point of view we could posit some crux material for ~60K ago, (first 'other-Is' are our sisters across the entire sky) but, this might be no better than Robert Graves' poetic methods in The White Goddess: https://whyweshould.substack.com/p/writing-good-out-of-me-worlds-better?

"The force of the superego is what produced a recursive ego, aware of itself. "

Yes, and because it is a iterating mirror function, it would work just as well described the other way around: aware of my specialness, I see others not me, not me-mother, them-me-but-not-me and I see myself as if for the first time…. —maybe it is my birthday? I mean, what are there all these peope doing here?

And then again...

That empathy thing, remember the mother-child dyad in this process. This is why I like Ellen Dissanayake.

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ok, I seem to have become a blog fly, I still haven't read it all, but this is a virtual backlink (as I think about what I have read here) (contexts for my other comments) https://whyweshould.substack.com/p/games-in-the-hide-of-our-names

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Feb 29Liked by Andrew Cutler

Oh we are so back

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I've been reading bits and pieces of your stuff for a while, this was the first piece I read from beginning to end in one sitting (listened to while I painted my shed floor). It was a fantastic piece for that - it made your case much more clear, and helped me better understand what parts were "established" versus your novel conjectures. I've always been bored in art museums - no longer, can't wait to have another try! Thank you!

These discussions get tiresome when lots of words are wasted defining "conscious", and one of the things I appreciate about this piece is that it defines these terms before using them, with the exception of duality. Do you mean mind as distinct from body, conscious thought as distinct from subsconscious?

One of the many places where @vgr is a wizard is in his curated and crafted vocabulary. He takes a common word with a muddled common usage, defines it quickly in a precise way, and then builds wonderful cathedrals out of these precise meanings. I think your writing would be easier to understand if it had a more precise set of terms which were consistent from piece to piece. Your interviews would be a good place to workshop this skill - they are currently hampered I think by competitive-dictionary-making.

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That's great to hear, thank you!

>Do you mean mind as distinct from body, conscious thought as distinct from subsconscious?

Mind from body

>Your interviews would be a good place to workshop this skill

Help me find some more :)

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Very interesting post. As you know, I think the insistence on hallucinogens being foundational to human consciousness is post-60s hippy claptrap (with a dark backstory that is not hippiesh at all). Nevertheless, the ambition of thinking at a grand scale about shared human symbolism is refreshing (and completely out of fashion in contemporary anthropology).

Snakes are obvious symbols of life-renewal (they shed their old wrinkly skins and are shiny and new underneath). Rescursive thought, whenever/ however it emerges, poses a questions animals don't think about: what happens to me when I die? What happens to the people I love when they die?

the special intelligence, sociability, and playfulness of humans is most closely analogized in aquatic sea mammals, the smartest of which live in matriarchal pods. they didn't need snake venom to develop this lifestyle :)

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Thanks! I spend a lot of time on venom, but I don't think that it's necessary for the Snake Cult to be interesting. There's a version where it's "just" meditative/dance techniques of ecstasy that diffuse, along with explanations for what happens when we die, and the bullroarer.

I'm curious what you think separates humans from animals. If it's recursive self-awareness, I don't think the self must have been much more fractured in the beginning. The evolutionary timeline that makes most sense then becomes fairly recent. Any comment on that snake-free line or argument?

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The two most important things seem to be:

(1) a theory of mind: knowing that others think, from their perspectives, just as I think, from my perspective. children seem to acquire this at around 4? Tests are stuff like, "if you saw the ball being hidden behind the chair, but Billy was out of the room at the time, will Billy know the ball is behind the chair?". Very little kids think their own mind is The Mind, and assume Billy will know because they know. At a certain stage they grok that no--- Billy has a different perspective on things. our nearest primate relations don't develop this. It would be interesting to test if dolphins do (maybe someone has?).


(2) entirely semiotic thinking. Animals do all kinds of sophisticated communication but they aren't capable of agreeing "that tree over there is sacred" or "we all know what a unicorn is even though unicorns don't exist, and we can even agree which drawing of a unicorn is more "accurate" even though unicorns don't exist"

Both of these are collectively arrived at, not individually arrived at. I think the hallucinogen stuff is post-hippy both in terms of thinking "drugs are cool, man", but also in thinking "the start of the story is ME thinking deeply about ME". It's so unlikely that at the start of the human journey is a self-actualized groovy individual who is, like, really in touch with himself. That's a sort of lamentable recent byway, really.

The evolutionary timeline: I mean, I have no idea, I don't think anybody knows. My guess is sooner rather than later, and gradually rather than suddenly, but the range of possibility is anywhere between 2 mya and 50kya and the fossil and material evidence we have to go on is just really scanty -- and of course scantier the farther back it goes.

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Mar 3·edited Mar 3Author

Circling back to "Rescursive thought, whenever/ however it emerges, poses a questions animals don't think about: what happens to me when I die? What happens to the people I love when they die?"

The questions are so obvious and fundamental that the first good answer would have every reason to spread. Some things that have surprised me is 1) that evidence of a good answer (eg. evidence of shamanism) is very late, emerging ~40 kya, and 2) cosmogonies and their attendant ceremonies have similarities that don't seem to be chance, and imply they are not independent developments. To say something nice about Anthropology, they uncovered the best evidence for this, and researched it for decades before getting bored. Bullroarers are much more compelling than the elements of cultural diffusion typically cited by Graham Hancock et al. Absolutely an unforced error that crowd has not picked up an anthropology book written anytime 1850-1950.

To the question of what makes us human, do you think either of those differences are phenomenologically important? One thing that psychedelics are good at is that they impose a vastly different phenomenological experience. There's a lot of woo surrounding this, but there are also lots of people like Sam Harris who don't become shroom heads. Instead it becomes an impetus to spend years meditating.

Living in Playa del Carmen, I'm surrounded by a lot of claims about Mayan traditions of psychedelic self-love. I usually ignore these, but will occasionally ask how it relates to human sacrifice. The hippie psychedelic tradition owes much more to John Lennon than any Mayan shaman. Still, there is evidence of some entheogens as a class. Eleusis, ancient peyote or cannibis use. And I think it's strange the extent to which snakes function in myth as a source of spiritual knowledge. And that the Hebrew etymology for snake has to deal with libations, and that various (hippie) classicists see evidence for the same in Eleusis. Given human ingenuity, it would also surprise me if psychedelic experiences weren't harnessed by religion. Even if more often than not it was more about casting spells on the neighboring tribe than meditating on the nature of life.

>2 mya and 50kya

Why would it be a finished product before 50 kya? We don't even see narrative art or shamanism at that point? Lieberman argued that the vocal tract couldn't produce human speech until 50 kya. There has been tons of genetic selection for language-related genes since then. etc etc

For me if there is a phase change, then it looks like it starts in earnest 50kya, and ends fairly recently. Or if there is no phase change then yes, it's 2mya - 50kya. But that does leave a lot of questions about the changes around 50kya. Why all of a sudden art and outcompeting all of our cousins? Seems like more recent timelines can't be discarded.

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It could be that it starts 50kya, but it's just important to remember that stuff degrades over time so "no earlier stuff" is not a slam-dunk and discovering just one site with earlier stuff could be a game-changer. So that's why I am wishy-washy on that.

this line: >>Absolutely an unforced error that crowd has not picked up an anthropology book written anytime 1850-1950. >> lol, so much this.

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What I find compelling is that the non-degradable stuff also takes off around 50kya. Stone tools really are very similar for long stretches of time up to about 50kya. Burials and beads are scattered before 50kya (maybe even going back very far), but are common afterwards. So on the things where preservation isn't as much an issue, there is also arguably a phase change.

But yes, I agree that it's ambiguous and it may be linear, or the figurative art from 200 kya was destroyed, or that beads/ochre 500 kya represent ritual or recursive self-awareness.

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Feb 28Liked by Andrew Cutler

I responded to your (book sent by) email asking if substack or my email software is distributing your book for free. I think we had to be aware of an “I” before we could process “I want.”

Is there anything in there about a hominid species similar to our own conducting burial rights? That’s been earning most of my focus lately.

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This post is pushing the limits of Substack...didn't post at first and support had to debug it.

Neanderthals also conducted burials, though I think burials become more common and obviously ritualistic about by the time of Behavioral Modernity. There was a very famous Neanderthal burial dated 60 kya where a flower was placed on top. My understanding is this hasn't held up well.

There are also some controversial homo naledi burials ~300 kya (which I find hard to believe, or would at least be strong evidence against all of this theory).

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(Big post) (not all read but I had to pause at):

"meaningful traits"

potentially circular trap here given the narrative surrounds, but I take your meaning, (even if 'narrative' beings the moment life lifts itself off a substrate and in that movement composes the body and the landscape it 'stories' over from the substrate of the terrain/medium, that a flow or gradient of protons allows when eddied into a membrane, or membrane into an eddy)

complexification is not a first appearance, just the most famous

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Wait for the section "What makes us human?" where I go into more detail

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Incredible read!

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Cultural transmission from trans-Siberian travelers?

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(big post)(Second pause) "Dreamtime ended."

No, it continues as a worlding, in this case as a series of responsibilities in inter-relations, in which a life may end but the rest continues. More recently most translate these tripartite worlding concepts such as tjurrkpa (country/land-people-law/lore) as dreaming (traditions of which go extinct but it does not end, being immanent rather than transcendental). Social ontologies on country have more to do with responsibilities rather than belonging and exclusion--(not identity-based). Perhaps it could argued that dreaming's 'sovereignty' ends with the British invasion and settler, but not from within the dreaming POV. Responsibilities descend regardless. Admittedly this is an attempt at emic explanations to a non-Australian audience. (not yet arguing with the main thesis of post).

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Sapient paradox? Maybe 10-15 kya we just began abusing our mitochondria with enough blood glucose from ingestion of increasingly available grains that our brains became hyperactive. If so, maybe the 'sapience' we so freely exhibit and blandish about ever since may be nothing much but a symptom of our species' dietarily-induced chronic manic state. Note that under this hypothesis, women would have had relatively greater access to dietary carbs (and consequently induced greater'creativity') before men due to pre-agricultural gender-defined economic specialization. The psychiatrist Christopher Palmer discusses variation in human mental behavior under, among other things, the influence of a carb-enriched diet in his recent book for the layman, https://www.amazon.com/Brain-Energy-Revolutionary-Understanding-Health/dp/1637741588/ref=sr_1_1.

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The art and religion seem to precede agriculture though, which is what makes Gobekli Tepe so interesting

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Feb 28Liked by Andrew Cutler

From the wikipedia entry for Gobekli Tepe: "Evidence indicates the inhabitants of Göbekli Tepe were hunter-gatherers who supplemented their diet with early forms of domesticated cereal and lived in villages for at least part of the year. Tools such as grinding stones and mortars and pestles found at the site have been analyzed and suggest considerable cereal processing. Archaeozoological evidence hints at "large-scale hunting of gazelle between midsummer and autumn."

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Still, what about arctic hunter-gathers in the last 10,000 years? They produce all sorts of art that was rare or non-existent 20 kya.

I'm sympathetic to diets affecting our cognition, but not being responsible for a phase change in symbolic thinking

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