Prehistory

Prehistory: The Making of the Human Mind
Colin Renfrew

I’m a big fan of intellectual history, so “cognitive archaeology” (intellectual prehistory) is hard to resist. I don’t think Colin Renfrew goes very far into explaining “the making of the human mind” in this book, but he does a decent job introducing what is still, due to the paucity of evidence, a dimly understood subject. How, for example, can we explain what Renfrew calls the “sapient paradox,” that large gap between the final settling of our genotype and the take-off of the agricultural revolution? To what extent can we speak of cultural “evolution”? And, the question I found myself asking at the end: is the story of our species one of unity arising out of diversity, or the other way around? Can the human mind be un-made as well?