Alan Barnard Lecture

Alan Barnard, Social Anthropology School of Social & Political Science University of Edinburgh

“Genesis of Symbolic Thought”

Date: Feb. 19, 2013
Time: 4 p.m.
Location: 217 DeBartolo

This lecture further develops the theme of my book by the same title, published in 2012. It also touches on the larger issues of a social (or cultural) anthropology of human origins, and in particular, the origins of language and of symbolism. Subjects drawn on are diverse, and include archaeology, human anatomy, genetics, neuroscience, linguistics, the history and philosophy of science, and religious studies. The basis of my approach, however, is in my own discipline: cultural anthropology.

The argument of the book Genesis of Symbolic Thought is that, with advances in many sciences, we can now decipher the time depth of the great human migrations out of Africa, the processes defining the beginnings of art, music and grammar, and the nature of the earliest religions. I believe that the foundations of all these things lie in hunter-gatherer thought and in hunter-gatherer social organization, possibly as long ago as 130,000 years BP. The lecture includes a synopsis of the book, reflections on its predecessor Social Anthropology and Human Origins (2011), and a look forward to the third volume in this trilogy, Language in Prehistory (expected publication, 2015). All these volumes are published by Cambridge University Press.