Aesthetic sense and social cognition: a story from the Early Stone Age

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Human aesthetic practices show a sensitivity to the ways that the appearance of an artefact manifests skills and other qualities of the maker. We investigate a possible origin for this kind of sensibility, locating it in the need for co-ordination of skill-transmission in the Acheulean stone tool culture. We argue that our narrative supports the idea that Acheulean agents were aesthetic agents. In line with this we offer what may seem an absurd comparison: between the Acheulean and the Quattrocento. In making it we display some hidden complexity in human aesthetic responses to an artefact. We conclude with a brief review of rival explanations—biological and/or cultural—of how this skills-based sensibility became a regular feature of human aesthetic practices.
Original languageEnglish
Early online date29 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - 29 Nov 2019

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