The more I think about the upper paleolithic revolution, also known as the mind’s big bang, the great leap forward, or behavioral modernity, the more I think it fits perfectly with Richard Lynn’s theory that exposure to the ice age caused high IQ to evolve.

The upper paleolithic revolution (UPR) refers to a sudden explosion in culture that occurred in the archeological record around 50,000 years ago.  According to scholar Richard Klein, it was caused by a brain mutation that occurred in East Africa 50,000 years ago that allowed humans either the intelligence or language to leave  Africa and conquer the World.  The only problem with Klein’s theory is no such 50,000 year old mutation has yet been discovered, and most scientists seem to think humans left Africa 70,000 years ago, and most of the evidence for this great leap forward seems to come from Europe, not Africa.

For example here’s a fascinating list of the 10 oldest works of art ever discovered.  Notice how anything older than 50,000 years ago does not really qualify as art.  Only after 50,000 years ago do we get real art, and notice how all the oldest real art was found in Europe.

I think what probably happened is that anatomically modern humans evolved in Africa about 200,000 years ago, and probably had a mean IQ of 72 (genetically and phenotypically).  Then about 70,000 years they left Africa, and were exposed to the challenges of building watertight shelters with strong insulation and animal skin walls,  learning to make fire, creating warm clothes and mastering the complex art of sewing, and figuring how to hunt large animals since plants were not around.  The low IQ people, and low IQ tribes could not adapt to these challenges, leaving higher IQ people as the survivors.

So by about 39,000 years ago, the IQs of the proto-Caucasoids in Europe had finally reached the 80s, and they had discovered not only the art of drawing, but had the spatial ability to draw realistic forms despite having never been exposed to art, and by 38,000 years ago, were making impressive sculptures.

Alternative theory

Another theory, popularized by Greg Cochran and Henry Harpending in the book The 10,000 year explosion is that this cultural revolution was caused by gene flow from Neanderthals, which somehow dramatically improved the cognition of modern humans.

One problem with this theory is that Neanderthals went extinct partly because they LACKED these abilities, so it’s ironic to suggest they gave them to us.  Of course it’s always possible that the unique COMBINATION of human and Neanderthal brain genes produced an intellect far greater than either species on its own, but why entertain such a speculative idea when there’s a much simpler explanation that has repeatedly proved useful in the field of HBD: cold winters select for higher IQ.