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This is the website of the Czech Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Archaeology in Brno, The Center for Paleolithic and Paleoethnological Research.

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To update the name  "Homo erectus" was changed to the name of "Homo antecessor".

Hypertrophic  Creativity  And  Sensitization  of  the  European  Homo  antecessor  Found  in  Archaeological MaterialA Short Introductory Survey

Introduction – Two Approaches

If we want to have an idea of how the European forms of Homo antecessor behaved, we can choose one of two ways. One of the ways is heuristic, the other is logical. Heuristic way of thinking seeks apparent links between phenomena. It explains phenomena on the basis of evident similarity. It believes that unique human behaviour must have a unique reason. Logic, on the other hand, prefers phenomena with the higher statistic probability to phenomena with the lower one. It follows that even a unique behaviour can originate from common and known mechanisms. I favoured the logical solution in my work, because current psychology considers the logical approach to be closer to reality.



The ideas considering behaviour of Homo antecessor also concern the forms of their creativity. Generally speaking, creativity occurs in a great number of invertebrates and vertebrates and changes with the degree of spatial and time orientation and the degree of insight and an internal genetical plan for each species. We can distinguish destructive and constructive creativity. Both possibilities can combine according to a specific key (digging a tunnel and a room for laying eggs and then their embedding and possible masking of the place.)

Making nests by chimpanzees can be recognized as constructive creativity. It is sometimes considered to be an inborn ability (Veselovský) or a learned mechanism (Veselovský 2000). Nevertheless, it is true that actually the nests do not vary considerably as for the materials used or their shapes. There is lack of cultural variations, there are not, for example, oblong nests in the south, square in the north, triangular in the west and round in the east. There is always only one invariable pattern, one round form. It implies organic limits of this particular creativity. Edward O. Wilson noticed an interest of young chimpanzees in twigs and assumed that it is pleasure that is behind it (Wilson 1978). Pleasure and displeasure are well-known mechanisms in psychology. It is probable that pleasure arising from a particular creativity is connected with compulsion and pleasure induced organically – by means of neurotransmitters such as dopamins and serotonins etc. Therefore, it is possible to say that creativity has a specific biochemical basis.


Hypertrophic Creativity

Whereas common creativity has its particular limits, hypertrophic creativity is much more advanced and plastic. It is an analogy of the anatomic hypertrophy investigated by Edward O. Wilson. It is just an application of hypertrophy in psychology. We can actually see real examples of such a model – hypersexuality in bonobos, collecting and complex creativity in male bowerbirds and, above all in human behaviour. Tools collected in archaeological material of European Homo antecessor are diverse, they take many different forms and geometric structural patterns and they apparently leave the circle. Hypertrophic creativity can also influence many other spheres, as gathering (e.g. to secure fuel for permanent heating), in insight (finding innovations as throwing, ballistic and rotary weapons /Shöningen/).



Hypertrophic creativity is just a specific form of the well-known and widespread creativity. The reason of hypertrophic creativity is probably sensitization, already known for a long time. It is an activation of the organism, the reasons of which are sometimes compared to an allergic reaction (Bičík, Fraňková). It is true that there are only a few studies dedicated to sensitization.


Long-term advanced patience

When discussing behaviour of humans and chimpanzees, Jana Kantorová (ZOO Brno-Bystrc) pointed out that there is a big difference between humans and great apes in depth and length of concentration on an activity, i.e. patience. There is lack of patience in great apes in comparison with humans. You can consider patience as a closely oriented and developed sensitization with suppression of other interfering activities. In the archaeological material regarding European Homo antecessor the hearths clearly show such a long-term, developed (hypertrophic) creativity.



Comparison of the handiworks of European Homo antecessor with the handiworks of contemporary great apes is very eloquent. It is clear from the materials (Vančatová) that although you can see some     sense of composition in the handiworks of the great apes, their style is obviously chaotic. On the other hand, you can see that the handiwork of Homo antecessor (Schöningen and Bilzingsleben) is geometrical, made very carefully by using fine motor activity.  Only geometric handiwork would mean that there was a change only in genetical and organic basis. (One can see geometrical forms of creativity even in invertebrates.)



Evaluation of some very important fields of behaviour of European Homo antecessor, such as advanced (hypertrophic) creativity, advanced (hypertrophic) patience and change of their handiwork into geometrical one will help us significantly create much more valid ideas on behaviour of Homo antecessor in Europe as well as on prehistoric cultures in general.

It is possible to search for reasons for typically human behaviour by using comparative psychology, ethology, sociobiology, biochemistry and genetics and there is no conflict among them. It is possible to conclude that the concept of hypertrophic creativity based on logic is fully compatible with sensitization and sensitization is again compatible with the research of neurobiology and biochemistry of neurotransmitters.

These conclusions are in agreement with the conclusions made by Thomas Wynn (Svoboda 1999), who investigated the human nature in the past million years by using methods of psychology.
On the top of that, we managed to fully avoid heuristic ideas about human uniqueness (work, brain capacity, intelligence, planning depht ,symbolic thinking etc.), which are now in unsurpassed troubles in comparison with the results in other fields, above all comparative psychology and ethology, the field of behaviour disorders and also archaeological materials (Homo floresiensis  with extremely low brain capacity).

This work is just a small outline of the topic, which deals, apart from other things, with sensitization and hypertrophic collecting activity and creativity of bowerbirds. This particular topic has been investigated insufficiently and there has been no proper research of it during the last 75 years. Nevertheless, current advances of neurology, biochemistry and genetics are very promising and we can expect much more exact and detailed results.



Bičík Vítězslav, Fraňková Slávka: Srovnávací psychologie a základy etologie. Universita.

Mania Deitrich, Dietzel Adelhelm: Begegnung mit dem Urmenschen, Die Funde von Bilzingsleben. Urantia-Verlag, Lipzig-Jena-Berlin, Verlag für populärwissenschaftliche Literatur, Leipzig, 1980

Karlova v Praze – nakladatelství Karolinum, Praha 1999

Jeřábková Zdeňka, Vančatová Marina: Kresebná aktivita lidoopů, Ke kořenům oduševnělého tvaru. Katedra výtvarné výchovy pedagogické fakulty University J.E.Purkyně v Ústí nad Labem, 1998

Svoboda Jiří: Čas Lovců. Akademie věd, Brno 1999.

Veselovský Zdeněk: Šimpanzí kultury. Osobnosti, které se samy poznávají na fotografiích, Vesmír 79, únor 2000.

Wilson O.Edward: O lidské přirozenosti. Nakladatelství Lidové noviny, Praha 1994. On Human Nature, Harward University Press, Harward 1978.



The author thanks Jana Kantorová for helpful discussions and materials concerning behaviour of contemporary great apes.  




The depiction of the view of a camp of elephant hunters of European Homo antecessor is actually just an elaboration of 30 years old work by the artist Adelhelm Dietzel and the archaeologist Dietrich Mania concerning the legendary Bilzingsleben locality in Central Germany (350, 000 years before present). Really scientific and critical reconstructions and imitations are to be expected only in the following years, providing there is systematic and methodical research of Homo antecessor behaviour.

Pic. 2 

Various types of tools of European Homo antecessor (Bilzingsleben /350, 000 years BP/)

Pic. 3

Geometric elements in engravings of Homo antecessor (Bilzingsleben)

Pic. 4

Comparison of handiworks of contemporary great apes and European Homo antecessor

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Updates Antropark 2012, Author and Illustrations © Libor Balák

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