Origin of human ritual behavior


KUNDT Radek LANG Martin

Year of publication 2021
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description We propose an evolutionary model of the origin of ritual behavior in the hominin lineage that treats collective ritual as a communication technology facilitating mutualistic cooperation. In our model, we first synthesize the literature dealing with hunter-gatherer ethnography and hominin archaeology and identify gradual coalescence of similarity signals, coalitionary signals, and signals of commitment to collective action as the main building blocks of human ritual behavior. Subsequently, we turn to primatology and paleoanthropology to trace the presence of these signals in both non-human primates and past hominins. Adding the proximate level to our analysis, we pinpoint distinctive neurocognitive mechanisms scaffolding the three types of ritual signals and track down their presence in past hominins. Finally, we connect this evidence with the prevalent socio-ecological selective pressures for cooperative communication and offer estimates both for when the first of the ritual signals started to evolve as well as when ritual signals coalesced into an adaptation affording to overcome collective action problems.
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