1.6 million year old archaeological evidence changes people’s view of language history

Conducted by archaeologist Steven Mithen, the new research report shows that humans developed language abilities 1.6 million years ago, in the wilds of southern Africa.

Bằng chứng khảo cổ 1,6 triệu năm tuổi thay đổi cái nhìn của con người về lịch sử ngôn ngữ- Ảnh 1.


“No one can doubt that humans developed physically and culturally thanks to the ability to speak. That’s why determining when the first type of language appeared is so important,” Professor Mithen, who specializes in prehistory at the University of Reading, told The Independent.

Previously, most experts believed that humans only started talking about 200,000 years ago. But in the new report, Professor Mithen suggests that the early version of the ancient language appeared at least eight times earlier. The professor came to this conclusion based on evidence available at excavation sites, in genes and in ancient human anatomy, in addition to some other linguistic evidence.

Combining them, he suggests that the birth of language took place between about 1.5 and 2 million years ago.


Richat structure in the Sahara desert, which is believed to be the cultural center of prehistoric Homo Erectus – Photo: NASA.

There is another important factor. The size of the human brain has increased significantly, especially since 2 million years BC, then increased rapidly in size after 1.5 million years BC. The increase in size is accompanied by a structural reorganization within the brain – including the first appearance of the frontal lobe, specifically related to thinking, imagination and cognitive functions. This contains a region called “Broca”, which scientists believe is involved in language production and language comprehension.

New scientific research also shows that the appearance of Broca’s area is related to improvements in memory retention – an important factor for forming sentences. But other evolutionary developments were also important for the birth of early language.

Two factors that accompanied humans at the dawn of evolution, the ability to walk on two legs and the change in skull shape, likely contributed to the process of changing the shape and position of the skull. respiration, thereby helping people have a voice.

Bằng chứng khảo cổ 1,6 triệu năm tuổi thay đổi cái nhìn của con người về lịch sử ngôn ngữ- Ảnh 3.

Homo erectus, believed to be the first human species capable of speaking – Photo: Internet.

Another crucial piece of evidence appears in 1.6 million years BC (which is also when humans could begin to speak) appearing in archaeological sites. When compared to contemporary species, humans are especially weak, so our ancestors had to possess another “weapon” to gain the upper hand.

During evolution, it is almost certain that language was part of a strategy to compensate for physical strength. To hunt large animals (or when gathering, to repel stronger animals), early humans needed better planning and group coordination – the development of language was paramount in this context.

Humans began hunting about 2 million years ago, and hunting efficiency increased significantly around 1.5 million years ago. Around 1.6 million years BC, history written on fossils shows the birth and transmission of culture through generations, and stone tools became much more effective. High capacity for spoken language helped prehistoric humans transfer complex knowledge and skills from one generation to the next.

Bằng chứng khảo cổ 1,6 triệu năm tuổi thay đổi cái nhìn của con người về lịch sử ngôn ngữ- Ảnh 4.

Progress in human tool creation, from 1.75 million years ago to 850,000 years ago – Photo: Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Yet, linguistic communication can help humans survive in different ecological and climatic zones – perhaps it’s no coincidence that humans can dramatically increase the rate at which they settle around the world. about 1.4 million years ago, just after the time when language is believed to have begun. This tool has helped people do three important things to shape the future: visualize to make plans, and communicate knowledge.

“That’s how language has profoundly changed human history,” according to Professor Mithen. His new research suggests that before the advent of language, human communication was extremely limited, perhaps consisting of only a few dozen different sounds and hand gestures.

Over the past hundreds of thousands of years, language gradually evolved and became complex to reach the sophisticated level it is today. In modern times, we not only use language to chat with each other, but also invent new languages, such as programming languages to chat with computers.

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