Uniquely, archaeology provides the material context for the minds and lives of the people for whom it was evolving.

Through materials preserved in the archaeological record, archaeologists reconstruct Palaeolithic lifeways by which these cognitive implications can be drawn. Yet in the discourse surrounding language evolution research, archaeology and human origins research feature less prominently than comparative biology, computer modelling, or developmental psychology, leaving the ancient hominins out of the equation, and language in a vacuum.

Archaeology’s contribution to language origins manifests mainly in the area of evolutionary cognitive archaeology, which suffers from a disciplinary gap with evolutionary linguistics by way of differing research networks and output areas. The result is two disciplines, one treating archaeology and hominin development superficially, relying on outdated models and research; the other tends to be unacquainted with the complexities of language, and rarely features empirical connections to language. Bridging the gap will require involving more archaeologists in evolutionary linguistics networks, disseminating fresh knowledge about human origins research to the evolutionary linguistics community, and transfer information concerning archaeology and language origins research back along those communication lines. This workshop is taking place to encourage this cross-pollination of knowledge, and will strive to:

  • Identify the ways in which archaeology contributes to knowledge about how language evolved
  • Identify productive research directions and sources of contribution for archaeology in language origins research
  • Identify ways to strengthen relationships between archaeologists interested in language, and evolutionary linguists interested in human origins

The workshop will be structured to share insights from researchers’ own work, but also to allow for open discussion of issues. It is intended that a paper will result from the workshop and be submitted to the Journal of Language Evolution, on the topic of what and how archaeology can contribute to language origins, with attendees invited to contribute.

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