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Pleistocene Exchange Networks as Evidence for the Evolution of Language

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 August 2003

Ben Marwick
Affiliation:
Centre for Archaeology, University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Hwy, Crawley 6009, Western Australia; benmarwick@hotmail.com.

Abstract

Distances of raw material transportation reflect how hominid groups gather and exchange information. Early hominids moved raw materials short distances, suggesting a home range size, social complexity and communication system similar to primates in equivalent environments. After about 1.0 million years ago there was a large increase in raw material transfer distances, possibly a result of the emergence of the ability to pool information by using a protolanguage. Another increase in raw material transfer occurred during the late Middle Stone Age in Africa (after about 130,000 years ago), suggesting the operation of exchange networks. Exchange networks require a communication system with syntax, the use of symbols in social contexts and the ability to express displacement, which are the features of human language. Taking the Neanderthals as a case study, biological evidence and the results of computer simulations of the evolution of language, I argue for a gradual rather than catastrophic emergence of language coinciding with the first evidence of exchange networks.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
2003 McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research

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