Determining the fundamental cognitive abilities underlying human high-level cognition remains elusive. An examination of the main activities of our first Homo sapiens ancestors offers a normative approach. Because shelter building was critical for a nomadic hunter-gatherer and required comprehension and manipulation of the knowledge for predicting, controlling and creating, I examined shelter building. I first conducted a theoretical analysis of the necessary steps to imagine and then construct a temporary shelter in the African savanna, including the underlying cognitive abilities to do so. I then compared the results to a case study of grass-hut building by a modern-day San tribe community in Botswana, Africa. The analysis provides a set of core cognitive abilities required for shelter building, which may represent the core cognition underlying our physical intelligence. Future examination of the other primary activities of our first ancestors should help produce a complete list of our fundamental high-level cognitive abilities. Keywords: High-level cognition; cognitive modeling; evolutionary psychology and neuroscience; anthropology.
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