The Humanities Center for Advanced Studies “Words, Bones, Genes, Tools: Tracking Linguistic, Cultural and Biological Trajectories of the Human Past” of the University of Tübingen...
Title: Where do we come from? Evidence from hominin paleoneurology.
Speaker: Amélie Beaudet, School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
Time: May 12, 2020 01:00 PM Amsterdam, Berlin, Rome, Stockholm, Vienna
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Because of its crucial role in the organism-environment interactions, the brain represents a key-element for understanding human evolution. However, a number of questions about the timing and mode of the emergence of morphological and structural traits in the human brain, as well as their functional implications, remains to be resolved. How did the hominin brain evolve? How could we relate these evolutionary changes to behaviour? Is there any functional-related information preserved in the fossil record that could shed new light on the identity of the earliest toolmakers, or on potential speech capacities in extinct species? The endocast (i.e., the cast of the inner surface of the braincase) represents the only direct evidence of the cerebral condition in fossil specimens. As such, various theoretical and methodological barriers limit our understanding of the evolutionary changes in the hominin brain shape and organization and their implication in the emergence of our own genus. In this context, I am developing a holistic approach that integrates extant variation, fossil evidence and advanced imaging techniques for providing fresh insights into the evolutionary history of the hominin brain. Through the presentation of my recent work and research projects, I show how such multidisciplinary studies may contribute to unveil crucial details about the biology and behavior of our ancestors.