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Where innovations flourish: an ethnographic and archaeological overview of hunter–gatherer learning contexts

Lew-Levy, S., Milks, A. ORCID:, Lavi, N., Pope, S. M. and Friesem, D. E. (2020) Where innovations flourish: an ethnographic and archaeological overview of hunter–gatherer learning contexts. Evolutionary Human Sciences, 2. e31. ISSN 2513-843X

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1017/ehs.2020.35


Research in developmental psychology suggests that children are poor tool innovators. However, such research often overlooks the ways in which children’s social and physical environments may lead to cross-cultural variation in their opportunities and proclivity to innovate. In this paper, we examine contemporary hunter–gatherer child and adolescent contributions to tool innovation. We posit that the cultural and subsistence context of many hunter–gatherer societies fosters behavioural flexibility, including innovative capabilities. Using the ethnographic and developmental literature, we suggest that socialisation practices emphasised in hunter–gatherer societies, including learning through autonomous exploration, adult and peer teaching, play and innovation seeking may bolster children’s ability to innovate. We also discuss whether similar socialisation practices can be interpreted from the archaeological record. We end by pointing to areas of future study for understanding the role of children and adolescents in the development of tool innovations across cultures in the past and present.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Archaeology
ID Code:102638
Publisher:Cambridge University Press


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