Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Anna Stetsenko


Feminization, prehistory, obstetric dilemma, alloparent, brain plasticity, cooperation, cultural artifacts


This thesis seeks to understand the relationship between environmental, genetic, and physiological changes that were concurrent with the emergence of complex modern behaviors and the morphing of archaic Homo sapiens into anatomically modern humans, between c. 190,000 years ago and c. 70,000 years ago. The thesis also focuses on how the unique survival needs of mothers and children contributed to the emergence of modern behaviors.

Archaic Homo sapiens have been dated to have emerged in history c. 318,000 years ago (Hublin, et al., 2017). The females of archaic Homo sapiens have been genetically dated to have morphed into anatomically modern humans c.160,000 years ago; considerably earlier, by tens of thousands of years, then the males of the species were genetically dated to have morphed into anatomically modern humans (Lippold, et al., 2014). Evidence from a variety of academic disciplines supports the emergence of complex modern behaviors concurrent with these dates, along with the strong possibility that these changes occurred when a small number of clans of archaic Homo sapiens occupied the paleo Cape Floral Region refugium in what is now South Africa during the periods of the Marine Isotope Stage 6 (MIS 6) deep glaciation and the Marine Isotope Stage 5 (MIS 5) interglacial period.

Evidence from the craniofacial feminization of paleoanthropological skeletal remains (Cieri,et al, 2014) between c.318,000 and c.32,000 years ago, coupled with contemporary breeding studies and prehistoric anthropological artifacts, suggest that archaic Homo sapiens women had been able to self-tame themselves enough of their primitive agonistic behaviors to be able to provide and accept mutual aid between each other. The capacity for mutual aid and cooperation during the deep glaciation would have been foundational to the emergence of behavioral modernity (Donald, 2001) by c.70,000 years ago.

Though many anthropological, geographic, and genetic studies offer evidence of the emergence of modern behaviors during the period to be studied, they do not illuminate what developmental psychological changes had to evolve before archaic Homo sapiens could have morphed into anatomically modern humans. To address this shortcoming this thesis will focus on the artifacts which supported the use of affordances and cultural artifacts that could have become the grounding for modern behaviors in an isolated refugium (Marean, 2011) and which could have supported some of the neurological and behavioral changes of Homo sapiens that allowed for a plasticity of brains to emerge. Brain plasticity could have provided the flexibility for non-hierarchical, matrilineal, alloparent communities essential for small isolated clans of archaic Homo sapiens women to survive both the obstetric dilemma and the deep glaciation of MIS 6 and the glacial warming period of MIS 5. Further, the goal is to explore what psychological behavioral changes, ubiquitous to present day anatomically modern humans, could have evolved to support cooperative cultural solutions to a biological problem and the public suppression of archaic Homo sapiens’ instinctive agonistic behaviors.