Cultural History of PaleoAsia

Scientific Research on Innovative Areas,
a MEXT Grant-in-Aid Project
FY2016-2020

B02: Mathematical modelling and analysis of cultural and behavioral changes through dispersal and settlement of human populations

Research Organization

Team Leader
  • Joe Yuichiro Wakano, Associate Professor
    Mathematical Biology, School of Interdisciplinary Mathematical Sciences, Meiji University, Japan
Co-investigators
  • Yutaka Kobayashi, Associate Professor
    Mathematical Biology, Department of Management, Kochi University of Technology, Japan
  • Naoyuki Takahata, Professor Emeritus
    Human Population Genetics, The Graduate University for Advanced Studies, Japan
  • Kenichi Aoki, Research Fellow
    Population Biology, Intellectual Property Law and Policy Institute, (IPLPI), Meiji University, Japan
  • Yasuo Ihara, Lecturer
    Theoretical Anthropology, Graduate School of Science, Department of Biological Sciences, The University of Tokyo, Japan
Overseas Collaborators
  • Marcus W. Feldman, Professor
    Stanford University, USA
  • Laurent Lehmann, Professor
    University of Lausanne, Switzerland
  • Alex Mesoudi, Associate Professor of Cultural Evolution
    University of Exeter, UK
  • Joseph Henrich, Professor
    Harvard University, USA
  • Magnus Enquist, Professor of Ethology
    Stockholm University, Sweden
Invited Researchers
  • Hiroki Oota, Associate Professor
    School of Medicine, Kitasato University

Research

Research Objectives

We study cultural and behavioral changes triggered by human dispersal, settlement, and contact with other groups by constructing and analyzing mathematical models, and clarify the key factors in cultural changes and diversity. Based on these mathematical model studies, we suggest logical patterns of cultural changes during the period of modern human dispersal and clarify the mechanism why the dispersal pattern of genes into Asia and that of culture were not completely identical.
Human culture is not solely determined by genes. Culture itself is transmitted within and across generations, and the PaleoAsia culture as well as modern human culture is rather a result of spatiotemporal transmission and accumulation of culture than just the expression of genes that each individual carried. With close communication with empirical research groups (A01-03) and theoretical research groups in cultural anthropology (B01), we extend our previous results and perform new mathematical modeling studies focusing on various dynamics of cultural evolution. We aim to obtain universal understanding of the formation process of Asian modern human culture that cannot be captured by genomic studies alone.

Research Methods

Our research plan contains the following five topics.
  1. We study the relationship between population dynamics and cultural dynamics, and clarify theoretical grounds why and how modern human population spread into Asia. More specifically, we construct and study a mathematical model using reaction diffusion systems.
  2. To express the diversity of culture, we develop a mathematical model that describes individual culture as a multi-dimensional vector and study what types of diversity is produced by different transmission modes or population sizes. This provides a theoretical prediction about the expected amount of cultural diversity when genetically homogeneous populations of human have spread across Asia.
  3. The genetic introgression between Homo sapiens and Neanderthals is recently actively studied. We compare a model assuming that each population independently acquire locally adaptive culture with a model assuming that a newly-arriving population learns culture from a pre-existing population and clarify how cultural interaction among populations can impact the acquisition of locally adaptive culture.
  4. We will keep close watch on research trends in this field, particularly genome studies. We interpret most recent research results in the viewpoint of cultural evolution, and locate our PaleoAsia research results to obtain general understanding of human evolution.
  5. The mode of cultural transmission has a very strong impact on cultural evolution. We empirically study transmission modes by comparing our model with ethnological data (research group B01) and by performing experiments using facilities in Kochi University of Technology.

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