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Hominin landscapes and co-evolutionary ecology: accommodating logical incoherence and complexity

Winder, Isabelle Catherine (2012) Hominin landscapes and co-evolutionary ecology: accommodating logical incoherence and complexity. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Abstract

Understanding primate (and human) evolutionary environments is a key goal of palaeoanthropology. The most recent contribution to this debate, the ‘tectonic landscape model’ (TLM) is the first to explicitly invoke either the spatial structure of environments generally or the physical landscape specifically as important to hominin evolution. It adds a layer of complexity to existing models and – if correct – has broader implications for the nature and analysis of evolutionary change. This thesis evaluates the TLM and its implications for palaeoanthropology. It explores the conceptual structure that surrounds the TLM to establish how this has so far impacted palaeoanthropology, then surveys the state-ofthe-art in hominin landscape research to establish existing levels of knowledge. This suggests that little basic information is available about the structure of African landscapes themselves, their interactions with primates, or the possibility that complex cognition ‘removes’ humans from their influence. Three analytical designs are therefore developed which use landscape mapping techniques and a series of socioecological and anatomical case studies of Papio baboons and Homo sapiens to develop this baseline understanding. Although the landscape system is complex, it argues that it should be possible to explore the impacts of individual factors like topography and that there are interesting perspective-dependent relationships between landscapes and primate anatomy and socioecology, which persist in modern humans despite the considerable cultural ‘filter’ through which they view and interact with their surroundings. These insights are then used to extract three predictions from the TLM that are tested against existing knowledge of the fossil record and evolutionary pattern and process in the mammals. The key output is a new theory of human evolution, the ‘complex topography hypothesis’, which is shown to work at least as well as traditional explanations of the human evolutionary trajectory and the distinctive anatomies and ecologies of hominins including Homo sapiens.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Palaeoanthropology, hominin, landscape, complexity, co-evolutionary ecology
Academic Units: The University of York > Archaeology (York)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.564182
Depositing User: Dr Isabelle Catherine Winder
Date Deposited: 10 Jan 2013 15:00
Last Modified: 08 Sep 2016 13:01
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/3218

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