Up to this point in our human history, it’s hard to imagine preceding species and early Homo Sapiens. They simply weren’t like us in any modern sense. But this all changed in the Middle-Upper Paleolithic transition, an eventful time variously described as a “cultural explosion”, the “dawn of human culture”, the “great leap forward” or the “cultural big bang”.
Music, art, bodily adornment, language, diverse tool innovations, transport, building dwellings and watercraft, and complex social systems are evident. This newly found self-awareness enabled us to, as Leary & Buttermore (2003) puts it, “to imagine themselves in the future in symbolic and abstract ways, a trait needed for intentional innovation, symbolic culture, and efforts at self-improvement”.
Our objective and conceptual-self abilities are now clearly evident.