Marcus Feldman, Kevin Land

Paper #: 96-05-033

Stone tools appear in the archaeological record approximately two and a half million years ago. The significance of this observation is not simply that “Homo habilis” and later hominid species had the guile to manufacture a lithic technology, but also that these skills were transmitted from one generation to the next. These simple artifacts thus represent the earliest evidence for culture. In fact, comparative evidence for social learning in a variety of vertebrate species suggests that cultural transmission almost certainly preceded “Homo habilis” by a considerable length of time. However social learning in animals is rarely stable enough to support traditions in which information accumulates from one generation to the next. The archaeological record documents the fact that for at least the last two million years hominid species have reliably inherited two kinds of information, one encoded by genes, the other by culture. How does dual inheritance affect the evolutionary process? Gene-culture coevolutionary theory is designed to answer this question.