Were people intelligent in prehistoric times? There’s no reason not so think so, given the fact that the times haven’t been long enough to account for significant genetic changes one way or the other. There’s a field of study called cognitive archeology that attempts to hypothesize the inner cognitive processes of our prehistoric ancestors.
An interesting take on this question comes from Dr. Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. Gardner posits the existence of eight (or nine) basic intelligences that inhere in the human brain: Word Smart, Number/Logic Smart, Picture Smart, Body Smart, Self Smart, People Smart, Music Smart, and Life Smart (the possible ninth intelligence).
One of the criteria Dr. Gardner used to come up with this list of eight or nine intelligences was that there had to be evidence of the intelligence in prehistoric times. Of course, much of this will be speculative, but we can certainly say that Picture Smart (spatial intelligence) existed in prehistoric times, and the evidence for this is the cave drawings and paintings that have been found in various caves in locations around the world dating back over 40,000 years ago. We have evidence for Number/Logic Smart in the (to us) crude observatories and calendars constructed around the world (for example, in Chichen Itza and Stonehenge).
There’s evidence of Music Smart in primitive musical instruments found in archeological digs, and Life Smart in the elaborate burial mounds found that seems to indicate a heightened awareness of the significance of death. Gardner’s theory, essentially gives us a way to extend our notions about human potential backwards to include our ancestors who lived (and thought) so many aeons ago.
For more information about Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, get my practical guides to multiple intelligences for:
- Adult learners (7 Kinds of Smart: Identifying and Developing Your Multiple Intelligences)
- Educators who teach children and adolescents — kindergarten through high school (Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom, 4th edition) and/or
- Parents (In Their Own Way: Discovering and Encouraging Your Child’s Multiple Intelligences).
This blog post was brought to you by Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D. and www.institute4learning.com.
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