The Origins of Human Imagination and How Technology Enhances Our Imagination

Session Date: 
Jun 1, 2018

Archaeological evidence for imagination is present, but rare and often controversial, before the appearance of Homo sapiens sapiens. The implication is that imagination is not the sole preserve of people like us; nonetheless, early H. sapiens took imaginative expressions to new heights. By 100 000 years ago, perforated and ochre-covered marine shells were found in early modern human burials and living sites and thereafter more material culture items convey imagination. Shell beads were strung to form a variety of patterns, and engraved ostrich eggshells, engraved ochre, notched bone pieces and hundreds of pieces of utilized ochre were found in South African sites. In the last 30 000 years, expressions of fantasy emerged, and people harnessed imagination to communicate their world view. To some extent, cumulative evidence for creative thought resulted from increasingly complex human cognition, but we must also consider the feedback relationship between brains and the manipulation of material culture.

File 2018_06_01_05_Wadley-Web.mp477.31 MB