Published online by Cambridge University Press: 09 October 2008
Recent breakthroughs in the cognitive and brain sciences, most importantly developments in neuroimaging technologies including functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), positron emission tomography (PET), event-related potential (ERP), and magnetoencephalography (MEG), have opened a new window on the human mind and offered a whole new set of possibilities for exploring its hidden functional architecture. This growing analytic potential can also be seen reflected in the numerous new fields of research, ranging from neuroethics and neuroprosthetics to the latest emerging field of neuroeconomics, which each year are being added to the rapidly expanding domain of contemporary cognitive and brain sciences. Despite these important developments however, within archaeology there has been little awareness of the challenging questions constantly arising from current findings in this field. With a few recent exceptions in the areas of cognitive archaeology and evolutionary neuroscience (e.g. Stout et al. 2000; Stout & Chaminade 2007; Dehaene et al. 2005; Frey 2003; 2004; 2008; Bruner 2003; 2004; Gibson 1993; Wynn & Coolidge 2003; 2004; Coolidge & Wynn 2004; 2005; Deacon 1997; Hodgson & Helvenston 2006; Mithen 2005), no systematic attempt has been made to channel this huge emerging potential in the direction of a common integrated research program targeting the big picture of human cognitive evolution (both before and most importantly after the socalled speciation phase) (but see Renfrew et al. 2008). Although archaeologists do not excavate neural tissue, we should bear in mind that the development of functional neuroimaging has allowed the investigation of a whole new set of questions which raise a host of archaeological and anthropological issues and thus demand our attention and critical evaluation.