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The picture of human evolution has been transformed by new evidence in recent years, but contributing disciplines seem to have difficulty in sharing knowledge on a common basis. The disciplines producing primary data in paleoanthropology scarcely reach out to a broader picture and are often bypassed by writers in other disciplines. Archaeology is encouraged by its material evidence to project a view that "what you see is what there was": by definition, there can be only a late flowering of human abilities. Yet there is a vital alternative paleontological record of the early hominins that gives us important information about their brains and suggests that brains become large and complex far earlier than that late material complexity might imply. How, then, to account for the large brains acting far back in time? Evolutionary psychology, in the form of the social brain hypothesis, claims that these large brains were concerned with managing a far-reaching social life. In becoming human, those brains did not merely become larger, but of necessity they took on new socialized perspectives, a domestication of emotional capacities allowing greater insights and collaboration. We argue that there is at least a 2-million-year social record that must be made part of mainstream interpretation. © 2012 by The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. All rights reserved.

Original publication




Journal article


Current Anthropology

Publication Date





693 - 722