The Beginning of Modern Cognition IELTS Reading Passage
This reading passage was asked recently on Recent IELTS Exam 25 September 2021 India
Reading Passage 3
You should spend about 20 minutes on Questions 27-40, which are based on Reading Passage 3 below.
The Beginning of Modern Cognition
Archaeologists excavating a cave on the coast of South Africa not long ago unearthed an unusual abalone shell. Inside was a rusty red substance. After analyzing the mixture and nearby stone grinding tools, the researchers realized they had found the world’s eariest known paint, made 100,000 years ago from charcoal, crushed animal bones, iron-ich rock and an unknown liquid. The abalone shell was a storage container- -a prehistoric paint can.
The find revealed more than just the fact that people used paints so long ago. It provided a peek into the minds of early humans. Combining materials to create a product that doesn’t resemble the original ingredients and saving the concoction for later suggests people at the time were capable of abstract thinking. innovation and planning for the future.
These are among the mental abilties that many anthropologists say distinguished humans, Homo sapiens, from other hominids. Yet researchers have no agreed-upon defnition oexacty what makes human cognition s0 special.
“It’s hard enough to tell what the cognitive abilties are of somebody who’s standing in front of you,” says Alison Brooks, an archaeologist at George Washington University and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.“So it’s really hard to tell for someone who’s been dead for half a million years or a quarter million years.”
Since archaeologists can’t administer psychological tests to eartly humans, they have to examine artifacts left behind. When new technologles or ways of living appear in the archaeological record, anthropologists try to determine what sort of novel thinking was required to fashion a spear, say, or mix paint or collect shellish. The past decade has been particulartly futful for finding such evidence. And archaeologists are now piecing together the pattems of behavior recorded in the archaeological record of the past 200,000 years to reconstruct the trajectory of how and when humans started to think and act like modem people.
There was a time when they thought they had it all figured out. In the 1970s, the consensus was simple: Modem cognition evolved in Europe 40.000 years ago, That’s when cave art, jewelry and sculpted figurines all seemed to appear for the first time. The art was a sign that humans could use symbols to represent their world and themselves, archaeologists reasoned, and therefore probably had language, too. Neanderthals living nearby didn’t appear to make art, and thus symbolic thinking and language formed the dividing line between the two species’ mental abilities. (Today, archaeologists debate whether, and to what degree, Neanderthals were symbolic beings,)
One problem with this analysis was that the earliest fossils of modem humans came from Africa and dated to as many as 200.000 years ago- -roughly 150,000 years before people were depicting bison and horses on cave walls in Spain. Richard Klein， a paleoanthropologist at Stanford University, suggested that a genetic mutation ocurred 40,000 years ago and caused an abrupt revolution in the way people thought and behaved.
In the decades fllowing. however, archaeologists working in Africa brought down the notion that there was a lag between when the human body evolved and when modern thinking emerged.“As researchers began to more intensely investigate regions outside of Europe, the evidence of symbolic behavior got older and older,” says archaeologist April Nowell of the University of Victoria in Canada.
For instance, artifacts recovered over the past decade in South Africa- such as pigments made from red ochre, perforated shell beads and ostrich shells engraved with geometric designs- have pushed back the origins of symbolic thinking to more than 70,000 years ago, and in some cases, to as early as 164.000 years ago. Now many anthropologists agree that modem cognition was probably in place when Homo sapiens emerged.
“It always made sense that the origins of moderm human behavior, the full assembly of modem uniqueness, had to occur at the origin point of the lineage,” says Curtis Marean, a paleoanthropologist atArizona State University in Tempe.
Marean thinks symbolic thinking was a crucial change in the evolution of the human mind. “When you have that, you have the ability to develop language. You have the ability to exchange recipes of technology,” he says. It also aided the formation of extended, long-distance social and trading networks, which other hominids such as Neanderthals lacked. These advances enabled humans to. spread into new， more complex envirnments, such as coastal locales, and eventually across the entire planet.“The world was their oyster,” Marean says.
But symbolic thinking may not account for all of the changes in the human mind, says Thomas Wynn, an archaeologist at the University of Colorado. Wynn and his colleague, University of Colorado psychologist Frederick Coolidge, suggest that advanced “working memory” was the final critical step toward modern cognition.
Working memory alows the brain to retrieve, process and hold in mind several chunks of information all at one time to complete a task. A particularly sophisticated kind of working memory “involves the ability to hold something in attention while you’e being distracted,” Wynn says. In some ways, it’s kind of like multitasking. And it’s needed in problem solving,
strategizing, innovating and planning. In chess, for example, the brain has to keep track of the pieces on the board, anticipate the opponent’s next several steps and prepare (and remember) countermoves for each possible outcome.
Finding evidence of this kind of cognition is challenging because humans don’t use advanced working memory all that much. “It requires a lot of ffort,” Wynn says.“1f we don’t have to use it, we don’t.” Instead, during routine tasks, the brain is sort of on autopilot, like when you drive your car to work. You’re not really thinking about it. Based on frequency alone, behaviors requiring working memory are less liely to be preserved than common activities that don’t need it, such as making simple stone choppers and handaxes.
Yet there are artifacts that do seem to relate to advanced working memory. Making tools composed of separate pieces, like a hatted spear or a bow and arrow, are examples that date to more than 70,000 years ago. But the most convincing example may be animal traps, Wynn says.At South Africa’s Sibudu cave, Lyn Wadley, an archaeologist at the University of the Witwatersrand, has found clues that humans were hunting large numbers of small, and sometimes dangerous, forest animals, including bush pigs and diminutive antelopes called blue duikers. The only plausible way to capture such citers was with snares and traps.
With a trap, you have to think up a device that can snag and hold an animal and then return later to see whether it worked. That’s the kind of thing working memory does for us,” Wynn says. “It allows us to work out those kinds of problems by holding the necessary information in mind.”
It may be too simple to say that symbolic thinking, language or working memory is the single thing that defines modem cognition, Marean says. And there still could be important components that haven’t yet been identifled. What’s needed now, Wynn adds, is more experimental archaeology. He suggests bringing people into a psych lab to evaluate what cognitive processes are engaged when participants make and use the tools and technology of early humans.
Some see a slow progression in the accumulation of knowledge, while others see modern behavior evolving in fts and starts. Archaeologist Franceso d’Erico of the Universitly of Bordeaux in France suggests certain advances show up early in the archaeological record only to disappear for tens of thousands of years before these behaviors for whatever reason- get permanently incorporated into the human repertoire about 40.000 years ago.
It’s probably due to climatic changes, environmental vaiability and population size,d’Erico says. He notes that several tool technologies and aspects of symbolic expression, such as pigments and engraved artifacts, seem to disappear after 70,000 years ago. The timing coincides with a global cold spell that made Africa drier. Populations probably dwindled and fragmented in response to the climate change. Innovations might have been lost in a prehistoric version of the Dark Ages. And various groups probably reacted in different ways depending on cultural variation, d’Emrico says.“Some cultures for example are more open to innowation.”
Perhaps the best way to settle whether the buildup of modern behavior was steady or punctuated is to find more archaeological sites to fl in the gaps. There are only a handful of sites, for example, that cover the beginning of human history. “We need those [sites] that date between 125.000 and 250,000 years ago,” Marean says. “That’s really the sweet spot.”
Do the following statements agree with the information given in Reading Passage 3?
In boxes 27-30 on your answer sheet, write
TRUE, if the statement is true
FALSE if the statement is false
NOT GIVEN, if the information is not given in the passage
27. As soon as they saw the materials, archaeologists were aware what they have found near the cave.
28. The ingredients of mixture in paint are interesting for early humans to use.
29. There was some doubt among researchers about findings.
30. There was a decline in the number of things that were found.
Choose the correct letter, A, B, C or D.
Write your answers in boxes 33-35 on your answer sheet.
31. The writer mentions findings in order to llustrate tool maker’ s
A. hunting ability
B. communication skills
C. artistic creativity
D. forward planning
32. The writer emphasizes the importance of artefact to
A. show how innowative the early people were
B. know how primitive societies formed
C. establish what they found
D. ascertain the materials that were available to early humans
33. The writer used “animal trap” as example to ilustrate
A. the dificulty of hunting animals
B. the importance of tools
C. the ability of puting data pieces together
34. What was described about the development of modern behavior?
A. different opinions
35. Alison Brooks described
36. Richard Klein believed
37. April Nowell thought
38. Curtis Marean described
39. Thomas Wynn disputed
40. Franceso d’ Errico mentioned
A. a sudden change in how people’s mind was evolved.
B. human thinking altered because of using tools.
C. challenges in finding the way of thinking of early humans.
D. significant impact of symbolic thinking.
E. disappearance of certain development due to some reasons.
F. symbolic thinking evolved earlier than assumed.
G. symbolic thinking was solely responsible for the change in the human mind.