Consciousness and Creativity at the Dawn of Settled Life @ McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Cambridge [from 27 to 30 July]

Consciousness and Creativity at the Dawn of Settled Life

27 - 30
14:00 - 18:00

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McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research
CB2 3ER Cambridge, Cambridgeshire
Despite the evidence for cognitive change in the Neolithic Near East, there has been little specific testing of the claims made. Scholars have assumed that the cognitive changes they describe are loosely linked to sedentism, changes in technology, trade and exchange, increases in amounts of material culture in the Neolithic as a whole, without exploring or testing any specific correlations. The dating of sites and events in the Neolithic of the Middle East remains imprecise, and many of the processes involved took place over millennia (e.g. sedentism, cultivation and domestication) and varied in nature and speed in different parts of the Middle East: the process of Neolithization has come to be understood as a complex poly-centric process. It has proved much easier to talk about cognitive change in broad-brush terms than to test specific hypotheses against the data from the Middle East as a whole.
The Templeton Foundation-funded project Consciousness and creativity at the dawn of settled life thus takes a different strategy to formulating and testing the above claims for cognitive change and the causes of them. First, a single excavated site, Çatalhöyük (, with large amounts of data that cover part of the Neolithic sequence will be used as a laboratory for testing hypotheses about the causes of cognitive change. Second, specific measures of the cognitive changes are proposed. Third, the data will be examined to test alternative causal accounts of cognitive change.
To set this project in motion, a conference in Cambridge will bring together members of the Çatalhöyük Research Project and other Neolithic Near Eastern researchers, as well as leading experts in neuroscience, evolutionary psychology, cognition and material culture in order to discuss and debate these issues.
Provisional schedule
Thursday 27 July
2.00 pm – 5.00 pm. Ian Hodder and team members – detailed introduction to Çatalhöyük and to the ‘Consciousness and Creativity’ research questions
5.00 – 6.00. Discussion
Friday 28 July
9.30 – 10.15. Lucy Bennison-Chapman – Small, geometric clay objects: symbolic, record keeping tools (“tokens”) or multifunctional, utilitarian, tools?
10.15 – 11.00. Lucy Bennison-Chapman and Orkan Umurhan – A method to test regularity of size and shape of Çatalhöyük’s large clay balls
11.00 – 11.30. Break.
11.30 – 12.15. Sean Doyle – Signatures in stone — symbols of ownership and signs of innovation
12.15 – 1.00. Marek Baranski – Brick size and architectural regularities
1.00 – 2.30. Break
2.30 – 3.15. Christopher Knüsel – From parts to a whole? Exploring the meaning of human remains at Çatalhöyük
3.15 – 4.00. Scott Haddow – From parts to a whole? Exploring the meaning of human remains at Çatalhöyük (continued)
4.00 – 4.15. Break
4.15 – 5.00. Milena Vasić – Adorning the self
5.00 – 6.00. Discussion
Saturday 29 July
9.30 – 10.15. Güneş Duru – Aşıklı Höyük
10.15 – 11.00. Douglas Baird – Boncuklu Höyük
11.00 – 11.30. Break
11.30 – 12.15. Hans Gebel — The Southern LPPNB's territories of consciousness: their fabric in the Ba‘ja/ Basta region
12.15 – 1.00. Colin Renfrew — TBA
1.00 – 2.30. Break
2.30 – 3.15. Fiona Coward — The rise of the ‘familiar stranger’: material culture, social cognition and the conscious creation of self in the early Neolithic of the Near East
3.15 – 4.00. Marion Benz — When time becomes a matter
4.00 – 4.15. Break
4.15 – 5.00. Lisa Maher — Hunter-gatherer home-making? Building landscape and community in the Epipalaeolithic and Neolithic
5.00 – 6.00. Discussion
Sunday 30 July
9.30 – 10.15. Lambros Malafouris — TBA
10.15 – 11.00. Trevor Watkins — The pivotal transformation of the human cultural niche
11.00 – 11.30. Break
11.30 – 12.15. Olivier Nieuwenhuijse — TBA
12.15 – 1.00. John Sutton — Forms of remembering: Neolithic changes in memory and material culture
1.00 – 2.30. Break
2.30 – 3.15. Paul Howard-Jones – Cognitive function and the cultural “ratchet”
3.15 – 4.00. Michael Wheeler — Cognitive change and material culture: a distributed perspective
4.00 – 4.15. Break
4.15 – 5.00. Chris Thornton – The headed meronomy as a ladder to complex thought
5.00 — 6.00. Final discussion
All papers will be 30 minutes in length followed by 15 minutes discussion.
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