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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: April 2020

10 - Hunting Big Game

from Part III - Non-symbolic Behaviours


Chapter 10 appraises the hunting inference about Neanderthal language. Starting from data about Neanderthals’ ambush hunting, this inference comprises in outline three inferential steps: Neanderthals’ ambush hunting had the features F1, F2, F3 and F4 → This hunting required cooperation → This cooperation required communication → This communication required language. [F1 = The hunting was confrontational; F2 = The prey comprised large animals; F3 = Heavy carcasses had to be transported; F4 = Bands of hunters were divided into a tracking/driving and an ambushing group.] The first inferential step is underpinned by the assumption that hunters had to cooperate in planning ambushes, killing dangerous prey etc.; the second step by the assumption that such planning required communication about effective hunting strategies, coordinated action etc.; the third step by the assumption that such communication required ‘labels’ or ‘words’ for referring to features of the landscape, routes, hunting sites etc. These assumptions are reasonable. But it is unwarranted to infer that (a) to be successful, such communication required complex grammar; and (b) that any such communication was not gestural.