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[Paper spotlight] Adolescence and Innovation in the European Upper Palaeolithic

Check out this fascinating new paper by April Nowell & Jennifer C. French in Evolutionary Human Sciences.

Abstract: Childhood and adolescence are two stages of development that are unique to the human life course. While childhood in the Pleistocene has received considerable attention in recent years, adolescence during the same period remains an understudied area of research. Yet it is during adolescence that key social, physical and cognitive milestones are reached. Thus, through studying adolescents, there is enormous potential for improving our understanding of Upper Palaeolithic lifeways more broadly. The reason for the dearth of these types of studies may be the perceived methodological difficulty of identifying adolescents in the archaeological record. In many ways, it is easier to distinguish children (sensu lato) from adults based on size, developmental age and associated artefacts. Adolescents, however, are often seen as more ambiguous, more liminal. Working within an evolutionary framework and using a definition of adolescence rooted in biology, we draw on psychology, ethnography and palaeodemography to develop a model of what it might have meant to be a ‘teenager’ in the European Upper Palaeolithic. Citing the biological, social and cognitive changes that occur during this life stage, we propose an important role of teenagers in the origins and spread of new ideas and innovations throughout the Late Pleistocene.


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