Identifying behavioural modernity: Lessons from Sahul

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This contribution is aimed at drawing attention to the fact that the current most widely accepted understanding of the origins of modern behaviour is very much dominated by Western concepts of the character of humanity. Here, it is briefly discussed that this understanding not only produces less than convincing results in the current discussion on ‘modern human origins’, but it is still plagued by problems that were already evident in the 18th and 19th centuries. It is suggested that these issues are connected to a simplistic and essentialist understanding of human historical development. The concept of ‘modernity’ inevitably produces a version of human history that is unilinear, Eurocentric and concentrates on the development and history of state societies. It is therefore suggested that 'modernity' in all its versions is very much counterproductive for our aim to understand the human past and present. It needs to be replaced by an understanding of organisms, humans and their environments as mutually constituting each other and as products of their situated becoming and not of essential (cognitive and/or genetic) and time-less qualities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-34
JournalIndo-Pacific Prehistory Association Bulletin
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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