argument for treating much of material culture as proxies for corporal
culture in terms of containers and instruments. The second, learning, can
be addressed by studying the development of babiesâ€™ brains and the
demonstration that they think before they speak (Bloom 2004).
But we need to know what it is that has to be learned so I will start with
the theory of mind that describes different orders of intentionality. Humans
are capable of four levels and on occasion even five. A belief in the
supernatural provides an example of these mental gymnastics where â€˜I have
to believe that you suppose that there are supernatural beings who can be
made to understand that you and I desire that things should happen in a
particular wayâ€™ (Dunbar 2003:177). The four levels are shown by the
italicised words. This level of co-ordination exceeds normal social
interaction where three levels of intentionality are involved, â€˜I intend that
you believe that you must behave in the way that the rest of us wantâ€™ (ibid.).
This everyday aspect of social life is however beyond the great apes who at
best can achieve Level 2 intentionality in gathering allies to their social
cause. Provocatively, Dunbar (2003:Figure 4) has applied these levels to the
brain sizes (Figure 8.4) of all primates and by extrapolation to the fossil
hominin record. According to this graph Level 4 intentionality came very
late in human evolution, returning us to the notion of extension as our basic
social skill along with mimesis as the core ability upon which much later
and more advanced symbolic structures are based. Belief in the super-
natural, not just as a presence but as a controlling force, is another example
of going beyond, of the extended mind stretching those social relationships
to extraordinary degrees.
Did agriculture change the world? 223
figure 8.4. Predictions from the social brain hypothesis for the levels of intentionality
in a theory of mind among fossil hominins (after Dunbar 2003). These can be compared
with group size (Figure 8.2) and language (Figure 8.3).
And this is where children enter the story. Babies, we know, will later
achieve Level 4 intentionality, that ability to project outside themselves.
But they have to grow into it. A crucial threshold in their journey is provided
by accepting false belief, recognising that someone has a different under-
standing of a situation than you do. For example, you see someone put a
book on a shelf before leaving the library. Then you see someone else move
that book to another location. The first person returns: where do they look
for the book? If you have the capacity for false belief, as children older than
three and four do, you know that it will be where they left it. If not, then you
will expect them to look on the shelf where you saw it was moved to.
In this regard, as psychotherapist Sue Gerhardt (2004:18) has put it
â€˜babies are like the raw material for the selfâ€™. They are an interactive project
and not a self-powered, automatic process. To achieve their potential of
Level 4 intentionality their brains not only have to grow to full adult size but
they have to become, through interaction, the kind of social brain that can
achieve this. Gerhardt (2004:37) discusses the extensive literature that
shows how the orbitofrontal cortex acts to control emotions by linking
224 Origins and Revolutions
cortex and sub-cortex. It is this area of the brain that fine-tunes our
behaviour by managing feelings. Most importantly this area of the brain
develops almost entirely after birth and is structured by the interactive
experiences that the baby has with its carers and the world it inhabits, and
not just by genes alone. Gerhardtâ€™s thesis is that as well as being social our
brain is predominantly emotional. Those feelings that alert us to danger,
love, fear and happiness are guides to action and enable us to adapt more
precisely to the unique circumstances that we find ourselves in as growing
babies (ibid. 2004:85). Our minds emerge through interaction with others
and not in isolation. It is the emotional landscape of that development that
Human social intelligence is therefore particularly sensitive to experi-
ences occurring between the ages of six and eighteen months in a babyâ€™s
life and so well before language skills and false belief are apparent. In a
study by child psychologists Susan Hespos and Elizabeth Spelke (2004) the
conceptual ability of five month old infants was tested by watching them
observe objects in space. There are two points of interest here. First, the
researchers studied English and Korean children to see if learning very
different languages shape, as many believe, their subsequent mental life.
Second, their study deals with objects. These involve either a cylinder and a
container or a ring placed around a post to examine spatial concepts of
loose and tight fit and such experiential prepositions as â€˜onâ€™ and â€˜inâ€™. Think
of a mortar and pestle or an arrow in a quiver and you have the idea. Hespos
and Spelkeâ€™s study provides us with an opportunity to observe growing
minds in relation to instruments and containers, an example of how
Donaldâ€™s â€˜implementable action metaphorsâ€™ might be learned.
On the first count the results showed that languages as different as
Korean and English are not what is important in the learning process.
Hespos and Spelke use the cylinders and containers to ascertain if the
babies from these two linguistic backgrounds are sensitive to categorical
difference. Here the â€˜categoryâ€™ is the visual relationship between two
objects. The baby is shown a cylinder that is a â€˜loose fitâ€™ in a container.
Eventually they get bored, or rather habituated to this category and so stop
looking. Then they are shown a new category with the same objects, this
time a â€˜tight fitâ€™, to see if their attention returns. Both Korean and English
babies respond in the same way to new categories and look longer, their
interest aroused. From this the researchers conclude that thought, in the
form of representations of how the world works, precedes language. Here
the babies are thinking in material categories and judging the relationships
between forms in an experiential, metaphorical manner. Put another way,
Did agriculture change the world? 225
the study suggests that they understand the â€˜inâ€™, â€˜onâ€™ and â€˜aroundâ€™ as material
prepositions before they articulate them as speech acts. Their body is
already providing those spatial positions and experiences of the world
(Chapter 3) that only later are glossed by words and organised syntactically.
As the preorbital cortex is growing and being shaped by emotion through
daily interaction, so too is the conceptual basis of an object-world being
developed in mimetic form, and that form is metaphorical. Paul Bloom has
commented that these contrasts of loose and tight fit, a relationship
between container and instrument, are meaningful because they make
sense of the world. He concludes:
Language learning might really be the act of learning to express ideas that
already exist, either because they are unlearned or because they have been
learned through experience with the physical and social world.
Bringing up baby
The relevance of this recent child psychology study to the origins of
agriculture is, therefore, as follows. Babies have the pre-language, pre-
theory of mind ability to differentiate categories in the material worlds that
surround them. This being the case the structure and organisation of
that world will establish, in the process described by Donald as mimesis,
what the metaphors will be that structure their relations to others and to the
world they inhabit. Primary metaphors, such as growing the body and the
giving environment, will depend upon the array of objects that are asso-
ciated from the outset with growing a social brain, as the orbitofrontal
cortex enlarges during the first eighteen months of life, and then an
extended mind that is well underway by the age of four. It is during this
period that the autobiographical self is established building on the skills of
the core self and where, as Damasio (2000) has shown (Chapter 5),
memories and references are stored as a result of experience rather than
The period of infancy where the self is laid down and the skills of being
human are grown is therefore critical for the creation of identity. Moreover,
the importance of the material and corporal culture (Figure 4.1) that sur-
rounds the infant will have direct bearing on the concepts and categories
which are significant for the establishment of the relationships that will
structure future projects. Therefore, the visual and tactile array of material
proxies for the body that are presented to babies by their hominin carers will
226 Origins and Revolutions
be important both for the construction of identity and the shape of society.
When, as indicated by the innovations list (Table 7.4), a gradient occurred
during technologyâ€™s three movements from a dominance of instruments to
an ascendancy of containers I propose this had a profound affect for the
psychological and cognitive identity of the child and, moreover, an effect
that resulted in what, with hindsight, we see as change. The project of
making the child was, and remains, rational and emotional, relational as
well as material.
The importance of children: sets and nets
Children do not figure much in archaeology. They were buried and on
occasion their weaning foods, a sticky mash, have been recovered (Mason
et al. 1994). In the innovations list (Table 7.4) there is no childrenâ€™s tech-
nology and no description of cradle, pacifier or carrying sling (Fagan 2004;
Troeng 1993). Their toys can be confused with ritual objects because small
size is a poor guide to identification. Their tiny footprints and shoes indicate
they were present (Roveland 2000), but they would be, wouldnâ€™t they?
Children are like preâ€™s: inconsequential so un-noticed.
This state of affairs, as archaeologist Joanna Sofaer (2000) points out,
has the outcome of making children a biological rather than a cultural
category. A child is a child because of age and size. It is a preface to an adult
who is able to reproduce both socially and sexually. As Sofaer points out this
makes it important to do for children what has already been done for
women in the remote past by engendering them (Gero and Conkey 1991).
Women and children are categories that are culturally constructed rather
than biologically determined. They need to be gendered and aged because
of the discrepancy in interpretation towards androcentric, adult categories.
In addition, concepts of motherhood and childhood are not universal in
their attributes of devotion, care and dependence but rather local con-
structions, if they exist at all.
A rational approach to archaeological evidence has been frustrated by
the lack of childrenâ€™s things. This is unlikely to change by deliberately
searching for children among the artefactual evidence although the
demonstration of apprenticeship has held out some hope (Grimm 2000;
Janik 2000; Pigeot 1990; Roux 1999). Instead the change that is needed
requires a primary metaphor to make them visible. This will not necessarily
allow the correct identification of their toys or a schoolroom for stone
knapping. Instead it will combine the symbolic force of the bodyâ€™s
Did agriculture change the world? 227
biological development with the material metaphors that give it cultural
Growing is the metaphor that expresses the category of children and is
accessible to archaeologists through the practice of accumulation and
enchainment and the actions of fragmentation and consumption. Children
can also be conceived as material projects (Chapter 6, Table 6.2) and as a
result we can trace their importance through the proliferation of sets and
nets of those proxies for the body, instruments and containers. Growing
replaces the metaphor of the giving environment and as a result the
emphasis shifts from instruments to containers and from reductive to
additive techniques (Figure 7.1).
But what has this to do with agriculture or even questioning the
significance of a Human Revolution? Anthropologist Tim Ingold points the
way when he observes that â€˜growing plants and raising animals are not so
different, in principle, from bringing up childrenâ€™ (2000:86). His point is
that activities such as weeding fields and tending livestock do not make
domestic plants and animals but rather establish the environmental
conditions for their growth and development. Through their labours
farmers and shepherds set the environmental conditions within which the
crops and livestock will grow, just as parents establish the elements in the
emotional and material arrays that surround the development of the baby
and child. Furthermore, in Ingoldâ€™s opinion the distinction between
gathering and cultivation, hunting and husbandry is no more than â€˜the
relative scope of human involvement in establishing the conditions of
growthâ€™ (Ingold 2000:86).
Children, crops and herds are projects for our agency and as such
form sets and nets of material culture. For instance, a herd of cattle is a
set that also casts a wide net of relations as illustrated so graphically in
the classic social anthropology of East Africa. The accumulation of the
herd is possible by growing it as well as by exchange through marriage.
Likewise, crops are grown in order to accumulate and enchain through
their consumption and transformation into food. The herd is never
finished just as its owner â€˜lives onâ€™ materially, distributed in time and
space so that the actions of the living combine with the authority of
the ancestors. Families and communities are similarly sets of rela-
tionships that arise through accumulation and enchainment. The material
culture of villages that includes pottery, querns, sickles, cemeteries,
228 Origins and Revolutions
figure 8.5. The relationship of the childscape to other concepts of human identity.
grain stores and stables are therefore responsive to the metaphor of
growing the body because they are also sets that can be added to and
The material project of growing children needs to be investigated at two
interlocking scales, the locale and the landscape that together I refer to as
the childscape: the environment for growth (Figure 8.5). At locales there is
always the possibility for the accumulation of sets of material and corporal
culture in the form of dances, fires, huts and all the accoutrements of
a social technology. Through these activities these locales become places,
sites of memory and woven into the autobiographical self, narrated with
words, objects and sensations.
Did agriculture change the world? 229
For the child these locales are often places of safety, an environment to
grow with as well as in. Childscapes are therefore composed of emotionally
charged arrays, including material culture. These arrays are learned as
related categories and used as an individual authors their own emerging
networks and identity. Fragmentation and consumption are always occur-
ring at locales, acting out through bodily rhythms the metaphorical
expression of a giving-environment and growing-a-body. The childscape
is where our identity is created and its metaphorical basis established
through references to emotional, material and symbolic resources
(Tables 5.5 and 8.1). The childscape, like the self, is hidden. Memories of
those early years are for all of us piecemeal, erratic and do not compare with
those that form the later and larger chapters in our autobiographical selves.
Locales articulate to wider networks in what I have previously called
a social landscape (Gamble 1999:90Ã€1) and where I drew a distinction
between these and the landscape of habit and the taskscape that were
common to all hominins. The landscape of habit is an area of habitual
action while the taskscape, as used by Ingold (1993), focuses on the act
of attention where we hear, see and smell life through its varied activities.
By contrast I introduced the social landscape to deal with the extension of
social life that occurred comparatively late in human evolution as discussed
earlier in this chapter.
These terms still have value, although there are perhaps too many of
them. They can be simplified using the childscape, as defined above, that
has its own interlocking locales, landscape of habit, taskscape and social
landscape (Figure 8.5). By virtue of growth and development, the spatial
and social scales will be different from the adult conception that dominates
my earlier use of these terms (Gamble 1999) and which on reflection dealt
more with the giving-environment for mature actors rather than growing-
a-body, and an identity, for the young.
Childscapes and material projects
Insisting on a change in the ways through which the world was understood
is all very well but what is needed is a definition of those material metaphors
that formed the conceptual universe of these hominins. Rather than write
an account from the cradle Ã€ what baby saw Ã€ I will tackle this task by
describing the archaeological evidence from the three technological
movements I identified in Chapter 7. What follows is necessarily selective
and points the way to more exhaustive future studies. I will concentrate on
material projects focused on the body, and employ a social technology in
230 Origins and Revolutions
order to explore the changing metaphors that underpin agriculture and
institutions that we can recognise in our search for origin points.
The material project enacted through the childscape is growing the body.
This involves a range of attitudes that result in caring and altering as well as
reproducing the body both biologically and materially. The material arrays
that faced Palaeolithic babies will be examined here through the sets and
nets of material culture and those proxies of container and instrument
(Chapter 7) that reference us back to the body itself.
Sets and nets around hearth and home
Material projects are created through fragmentation and consumption and
they appear as distinctive patterns to the archaeologist through the prac-
tice, common to all hominins, of accumulating and enchaining. What is of
interest is how these simple principles have themselves grown during
hominin evolution. Sets and nets provide a means to assess this growth and
the arrays of material culture that formed the childscape. I will concentrate
here on the sets and nets that define two elements of the environment of
growth; hearth and home.
I will approach these elements in two ways. First, I will take the hearth
and examine it not only as a container that can be formed into sets but also
as a focus for the instruments and containers that are made and accu-
mulated around them. Of particular interest are locales with no hearths,
even though preservation is good, and the nets that are found across
Second, I will investigate another container, the house, and examine
how material projects relate to them. This will be done by looking at
changing densities of material and the emphasis will be on the evidence for
fragmentation and the creation of materials for nets.
My framework is chronological to lend clarity to an otherwise cluttered
narrative. Each technological movement is summarised and then followed
by some of the evidence on which it is based. Selected locales are presented
as case studies to indicate the wealth of evidence that awaits future analysis.
Fire, hearths and homes
At issue is not the existence of fire. Archaeologists can find evidence for its
presence during much of the long introduction through burnt bones,
flecks of charcoal and fire cracked rocks (e.g. Bellomo 1994; Brain and
Did agriculture change the world? 231
Sillen 1988; Callow et al. 1986; James 1989; Perles 1976), but rather the
control of fire so that it forms a container. Demonstrating that hominins
controlled fire is not straightforward, as John Gowlett (1981) has shown in
his study of one of the earliest occurrences at Chesowanja, Kenya, dated to a
million years ago. Small fires, lit once, not only preserve badly, but the
archaeological evidence is also open to alternative suggestions such as
lightning strikes and bush fires. What is of interest for the childscape is the
creation of fire in a container so that we have not only fire but hearths.
Hearths can be elaborated in many ways by digging fire pits, adding stone
settings and creating clay ovens. The fires they contain have to be cared for.
Ash and cinders need to be raked out and dumped elsewhere while
activities that fragment things in order to enchain and accumulate feed
them with leaves, wood, bone and peat. Fires consume and alter whatever
is placed within them. Here they are analogous to eating because fires
also embody and transform resources. Hearths attract bodies and care
for them by providing warmth and keeping predators beyond the circle.
The relationship is reciprocal. Hearths need those social agents if they are
to grow, while people need the social technology of hearths, not just
for practical reasons, but to involve others in projects. Hearths are an
emotional resource for a diurnal animal. They have always formed a focus
for the childscape because they act as nodes in the net gathering people
into those intimate and effective networks. Fire and people form a ring of
agency, a hybrid project.
Houses are also hybrid material projects, a point that has been made
earlier (see Chapter 3) and does not need to be rehearsed again. My con-
cern here is not with the domus (Hodder 1990), privacy (Wilson 1988) or
theatres of memory (Watkins 2004a), but instead with the contribution
of the house to the childscape and so to my theme of the material basis for
identity and change.
Houses and shelters are made from sets of materials Ã€ stone, clay, leaves,
mud, wood, reeds, turf, bone, ice Ã€ some of which are intentionally
transformed by fire as is the case with bricks. They are a purpose-built
container for accumulation and enchainment and they have contents: sets
of material, including hearths, that are both similar and dissimilar and
which, by being intentionally contained, acquire an integral relationship
that defines them as a category (Chapman 2000). Houses grow and change.
They have biographies shaped by the practices of accumulating and
enchaining. They are a focus for fragmentation and an arena for con-
sumption of those emotional, material and symbolic resources (Table 8.1)
with which an individual creates the networks of their social life.
232 Origins and Revolutions
The long introduction, 2.6 million to 100,000 years ago:
The social technology of the childscape during this long introduction is
dominated by instruments. The control of fire is well documented but
hearths, when they occur, are simple and at any locale only a few are found.
The sets of material that surround them are often diffuse, showing little
spatial patterning or internal organisation so that it is often difficult to â€˜readâ€™
the sets as material metaphors. Logical puzzles abound; for example the
piles of mammoth and rhino bones stacked beneath a granite cliff at
La Cotte de St Brelade, Jersey (Scott 1986), and landscapes densely strewn
with what seem to be perfectly serviceable but apparently discarded stone
bifaces (Pope 2002). These puzzles are compounded by the hegemony of
knapped stone and broken animal carcasses, materials with which we are
unfamiliar and where contemporary analogies can be hard to come by to
order experience (Chapter 3). As a result, the claims for shelters and huts
are always controversial, while convincing evidence for items that wrapped
the body, such as jewellery or clothes, is hard to find.
But even without an interior, house-bound life the childscape was
hidden and separate. Many significant actions took place elsewhere in
the landscapes of habit patrolled by adults, unseen and unheard. Those
dwelling in the childscape were related to this wider landscape of habit by
what was introduced, the kill brought back to the hearth or the stones
collected from the next river. As a result the childscape was continually
created and reproduced by these gifts from an unseen environment expe-
rienced vicariously through material culture rather than immediately
through the sensations of the body. The inhabitants of the childscape knew
the landscape of habit through the immediate actions of fragmentation and
consumption. These created the form of the childscape and the material