Evolution of Wisdom

Dates: Aug 01, 2014 – Jul 31, 2017
Prinicipal Investigators: Celia Deane-Drummond and Agustín Fuentes
Support: John Templeton Foundation; University of Notre Dame

Evolution of Wisdom

Project Aim

  • To understand the human capacity for wisdom: where did it come from and how did it emerge?

Project Activities

  • Colloquium at the University of Notre Dame
  • Colloquium at Durham University
  • Conference at the Notre Dame London Global Gateway
  • Postdoctoral Research Fellowships
  • Public Lectures
  • Research Publications
  • WISDOM Database

Project Summary

The project investigates the basic parameters, and processes, of the evolutionary origins of human wisdom. Wisdom is defined as the pattern of successful complex decision-making in navigating social networks and dynamic niches in human communities. In this endeavor, Christian theology and anthropology begin to converge. We uncover empirical ways of assessing and measuring the development of a distinctively human capacity for negotiating social and material worlds within the human evolutionary record, as well as tracking these developments in light of theological anthropology. 

Project Database

WISDOM – Worldwide Instances of Symbolic Data Outlining Modernity 

One of the aims of the project has been to develop an open-access database collecting evidence of the material, behavioral, and symbolic aspects of the construction of the human niche from the middle to the late Pleistocene and their relation to assessing and interpreting the emergence of wisdom. The database includes artifacts considered to be of symbolic importance such as engraved objects, artifacts that served as ornamentation, artistic representations, "exotic" artifacts, and the use of ochre. We also include objects that might not traditionally be considered "symbolic," such as the use of bone tools, as these objects require multiple phases of processing and examples of complex lithic technologies such as hafting. The database is maintained by Marc Kissel and one can either access the interactive version of the database overview or log in directly to the hosted full database following the online information. Our long-term goal is to build, maintain, execute, and implement a database where the salient details of these archeological datasets can be stored, modified, and updated. 

Project Events


Research Publications