EU shipping is temporarily suspended

Thinking Big

How the Evolution of Social Life Shaped the Human Mind

Clive Gamble, John Gowlett, Robin Dunbar


From Stone Age networks to Digital Age networking, this book explores the ancient origins of our social lives today


How did the brains of our hominin ancestors first become human minds? When did our capacity for language and art, music and dance evolve? And why does this matter today?

This groundbreaking book contends that it was the need for early humans to live in ever-larger social groups, and to maintain social relations over ever-greater distances – the ability to ‘think big’ – that drove the enlargement of the human brain and the development of the human mind. As Thinking Big shows, it seems we still inhabit social worlds that originated deep in our evolutionary past – by the fireside, on the hunt and across the grasslands of Africa.

Read More


'An important, provocative essay on human evolution, argued with great eloquence and skill'
Current Archaeology

'A triumph of collaboration, as well as a gripping detective story'
New Statesman

'A dramatic demolition of the “stones and bones” approach to archaeology'
New Scientist

'Retains the Thames & Hudson tradition of thinking clearly, and writing well … You will not read a more important book this year'

Read More

Related Topics

Product Information

Book Details

Format: Paperback

Size: 19.8 x 13.0 cm

Extent: 240 pp

Publication date: 18 January 2018

ISBN: 9780500293829

Contents List

Preface • 1. Psychology Meets Archaeology • 2. What It Means to Be Social • 3. Ancient Social Lives • 4. Ancestors With Small Brains • 5. Building the Human Niche: Three Crucial Skills • 6. Ancestors with Large Brains • 7. Living in Big Societies

About the Author

Clive Gamble is a British archaeologist and anthropologist, and Professor of Archaeology at Southampton University. He has been described as the 'UK’s foremost archaeologist investigating our earliest ancestors'.

John Gowlett is Professor of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology at Liverpool University. He is involved in fieldwork in eastern and southern Africa.

Robin Dunbar is a British anthropologist and evolutionary psychologist specialised in primate behaviour. He is currently head of the Social and Evolutionary Neuroscience Research Group in the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford. He is best known for formulating Dunbar's number, a measurement of the 'cognitive limit to the number of individuals with whom any one person can maintain stable relationships'.