Experimental evidence for the co-evolution of hominin tool-making teaching and language
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Hominin reliance on Oldowan stone tools—which appear from 2.5 mya and are believed to have been socially transmitted—has been hypothesized to have led to the evolution of teaching and language. Here we present an experiment investigating the efficacy of transmission of Oldowan tool-making skills along chains of adult human participants (N=184) using five different transmission mechanisms. Across six measures, transmission improves with teaching, and particularly with language, but not with imitation or emulation. Our results support the hypothesis that hominin reliance on stone tool-making generated selection for teaching and language, and imply that (i) low-fidelity social transmission, such as imitation/emulation, may have contributed to the ~700,000 year stasis of the Oldowan technocomplex, and (ii) teaching or proto-language may have been pre-requisites for the appearance of Acheulean technology. This work supports a gradual evolution of language, with simple symbolic communication preceding behavioural modernity by hundreds of thousands of years.
Morgan , T J H , Uomini , N T , Rendell , L E , Chouinard-Thuly , L , Street , S E , Lewis , H M , Cross , C P , Evans , C , Kearney , R , de la Torre , I , Whiten , A & Laland , K N 2015 , ' Experimental evidence for the co-evolution of hominin tool-making teaching and language ' , Nature Communications , vol. 6 , 6029 . https://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms7029
Copyright 2015. Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved.
DescriptionResearch supported in part by an ERC Advanced Grant to K.N.L. (EVOCULTURE, ref: 232823) and grants to N.T.U. from the British Academy (Centenary Project ‘Lucy to Language: the Archaeology of the Social Brain’) and the Leverhulme Trust (ECF 0298).
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