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MSWI-263C The Biological Significance of Art and Technology

3 Credits

The drive to create and innovate is central to the human condition and is unmatched in the animal kingdom. It may be the most defining feature of the behavioral changes-resulting in behavioral modernity-that distinguish humans from our nearest primate and human ancestors. This course explores the concept of behavioral modernity and asks the questions: What evidence is there for the earliest appearance of art and technology in the fossil record? What role do these advances play in the biological success of our species? What accumulate knowledge do we take for granted that allows us to appreciate art, interpret symbolism and interact with technology that our ancestors lacked? In answering, students will explore the nature of art and technology through a biological lens, as adaptations to harsh environments and varied landscapes. We will explore the earliest evidence for tool use and artmaking as well as search the animal kingdom for evidence of these same behaviors. We will observe how technological advances can tell us about cognitive advances, looking both to the fossil record and cognitive development for evidence. Finally, we’ll consider whether there are costs to the adaptations that led to our reliance on innovation.