Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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The Triggering Track-Ways Theory

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posted on 2021-11-12, 00:20 authored by Shaw-Williams, Kim

In this thesis I present a new paradigm in human evolutionary theory: the relevance of track-ways reading (TWR) to the evolution of human cognition, culture and communication. Evidence is presented that strongly indicates hominins were exploiting conspecific track-ways 4 million years ago. For a non-olfactory ape that was a specialized forager in open, featureless wetland environments, they were the only viable natural signs to exploit for safety, orienteering, and recognizable social markers. Due to the unique cognitive demands of reading track-ways, as compared to scent-trails all other animals use to find each other and preferred prey species, social TWR triggered the evolution of a unique faculty for narrative elsewhere-and-when cognition in the hominin mind. Two million years later, this narrative faculty was entrenched enough to enable the rather sudden "explosion" of co-operative Oldowan Lithic Culture that began at 2.6mya. This cultural adaptation was a highly successful response to catastrophic environmental change. Thereafter selection for encephalization to increase neural capacity to store and co-operatively exploit socio-ecological knowledge gained from the hominin narrative faculty (via co-evolving, increasingly efficient modes of intentional communication) drove all further biological and cultural developments in the hominin trajectory towards H.sapiens and behavioural modernity.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Name

Master of Arts

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations


Sterelny, Kim; Jeffares, Ben