The 145th symposium of the Wenner-Gren Foundation took place June 1-8, 2012, in Häringe Slott near Stockholm, Sweden. The primary goal of the symposium was to reframe discussions of behavioral evolution among Neanderthals and early modern humans. We hoped to replace conventions of a single scale of evolutionary progress (in which the primary benchmark is "modern human behavior") with a more Darwinian framework that could allow for independent evolutionary trajectories in different areas. The 15 participants included archaeologists researching material culture and subsistence in Eurasia, Africa, and China; physical anthropologists; a demographer; a geneticist; modelers of cultural evolution; and a climatologist. Participants were asked to draw on evidence in their areas of expertise, focusing on evolutionary trends in both modal tendencies and levels of variation/diversity within various regions during the interval in which the Middle Stone Age and Middle Paleolithic developed, spread, and eventually disappeared. It was agreed that there is compelling evidence for very different trajectories of cultural evolution in different parts of the world but that we are not yet in a position to fully evaluate and understand the outcomes of the parallel cultural evolutionary pathways among modern Homo sapiens in Africa and Neanderthals in Europe. Answering questions this large in scope requires synthesis on a large geographic scale comparable to studies by climate scientists and biogeographers. Conventional approaches to collecting, reporting, and analyzing archaeological and skeletal data do not lend themselves to rigorous tests of alternative evolutionary models. At the same time, the intellectual tools needed to research these questions are well developed, and answers are within reach.
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