Understanding the Development of Symbolic Cognition through Rock Art: An Interdisciplinary Dialogue

  • Wisher, I. (Organizer)
  • Tylén, K. (Organizer)
  • Pagnotta, M. (Organizer)
  • Riede, F. (Participant)
  • Fusaroli, R. (Participant)
  • John Matthews (Speaker)
  • Derek Hodgson (Speaker)
  • Blanca Ochoa (Speaker)
  • Eduardo Palacio-Pérez (Organizer)
  • Diego Garate (Speaker)
  • Larissa Mendoza-Straffon (Speaker)

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in or organisation of workshop, seminar or course


Symbolic cognition – the ability to produce and use symbols, including (but not limited to) linguistic symbols – has often been considered a hallmark of human achievement. Given its importance, symbolic cognition has been a major topic of interest in many academic disciplines including anthropology, archaeology, and the cognitive sciences. Palaeolithic rock art holds vast potential for understanding the early roots of symbolically mediated behaviour. Specifically, differences in parietal motifs across sites, and changes in these motifs over time, may provide important evidence about the socio-cognitive processes that occurred in the deep past of our lineage, how they varied across groups, and how they changed over time. However, the fragmentary and challenging nature of the rock art record often makes direct inferences about past symbolic behaviours difficult to assert. Additionally, because scholars working within different disciplines may differ in their interests, theories, methodologies, and terminology, interdisciplinary dialogue can be challenging. If we accept the challenge, however, we believe that interdisciplinary dialogues can increase our understanding of this important topic by combining insights into the particular conditions and socio-cultural contexts in which the art was made and experienced. This workshop intends to bring together perspectives from diverse disciplines to discuss the different theoretical and empirical approaches that can be used to understand what rock art might indicate about the evolution of symbolic behaviour and cognition in the Upper Palaeolithic. The Monte Castillo cave art sites will be a central focus point for this discussion, with their rich and extensive record of Palaeolithic art, providing key insights into how artistic behaviours changed over time and in turn, what this might inform us about the processes that may have affected the development of symbolic cognition. Several speakers will be invited to contribute to this workshop, with expertise in the Palaeolithic art record of northern Spain, psychology and cognitive science, and anthropology. It is intended that the different perspectives offered by these speakers will productively stimulate new discussions about interdisciplinary approaches to Palaeolithic rock art and encourage collaborations between the different disciplines.
Period15 May 202316 May 2023
Event typeWorkshop
LocationSpainShow on map