Monday, September 9, 2013

Striking Patterns: Skill for Forming Tools and Words Evolved Together

A meeting in the mind? In a test of how toolmaking and language activate the brain, an expert knapper made an Acheulean hand ax (above) while researchers monitored the flow of blood to his brain (see video).

When did humans start talking? There are nearly as many answers to this perplexing question as there are researchers studying it. A new brain imaging study claims to support the hypothesis that language emerged long before Homo sapiens and coevolved with the invention of the first finely made stone tools nearly 2 million years ago. However, some experts think it’s premature to draw sweeping conclusions.
Unlike ancient bones and stone tools, language does not fossilize. Researchers have to guess about its origins based on proxy indicators. Does painting cave walls indicate the capacity for language? How about the ability to make a fancy tool? Yet, in recent years, scientists have made some progress. 
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