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At some point in the early history of humanity, something happened that made us start to create our culture. This change resulted in information being transmitted not only via genes but also through social interaction.

“What happened that gave us the capacity to create, maintain and transmit culture? All of humanity changed, and it is a mystery how this could happen,” says Magnus Enquist, professor of ethology and researcher at the Centre for the Study of Cultural Evolution at Stockholm University.

Organism becomes cultural being

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Magnus Enquist wants to learn more about what makes humans different from other animals.

Under Magnus Enquist’s leadership, an interdisciplinary research team in the project “Evolutionary Transitions in Humans - From Nature to Culture” will attempt to find the uniqueness that made us human. The researchers come from a variety of backgrounds, including mathematics, biology, archaeology, anthropology, psychology and artificial intelligence. Knowledge of genetically based abilities to handle information will be linked together with knowledge of cultural evolution in order to find out what is required for an organism to become a cultural being.

In addition, the researchers want to learn more about how the culture has evolved since its inception.  One aspect of the project is to learn more about how old these characteristics are.

“If we could bring a child here that was born two hundred thousand years ago, and let it go to school, would that child be able to learn to read and write? I think it might. Perhaps we can change our view of heritage, environment and cultural evolution through our project,” says Magnus Enquist.