Today’s Top Science Headline –“Homo Erectus Was Able to Create Seagoing Vessels– and Sailing Lingo”


A new theory suggests that Homo erectus was able to create seagoing vessels – and must have used language to sail successfully. “Oceans were never a barrier to the travels of Erectus. He traveled all over the world, traveled to the island of Flores, across one of the greatest ocean currents in the world,” said Daniel Everett, professor of global studies at Bentley University, and author of How Language Began. “They sailed to the island of Crete and various other islands. It was intentional: they needed craft and they needed to take groups of twenty or so at least to get to those places.”

“Homo erectus spoke and invented the Model T Ford of language." writes Everett in today's Guardian. "We speak the Tesla form, but their Model T form was not a proto-language it was a real language. Everybody talks about Homo erectus as a stupid ape-like creature, which of course describes us just as well, and yet what I want to emphasise is that Erectus was the smartest creature that had ever walked the Earth."

They had bodies similar to modern humans, could make tools, and were possibly the first to cook. Now one expert is arguing that Homo erectus might have been a mariner – complete with sailing lingo.

Homo erectus first appeared in Africa more than 1.8m years ago and is thought to be the first archaic human to leave the continent.

H. erectus fossils have turned up not only in Southern Europe, but as far afield as China and Indonesia. Some argue that the mysterious hominid Homo floresiensis, discovered on the island of Flores, could be descended from H. erectus – although others disagree.

While Everett is not the first to raise the controversial possibility that H. erectus might have fashioned some sort of seagoing vessel, he believes that such capabilities mean that H. erectus must also have had another skill: language.

“Erectus needed language when they were sailing to the island of Flores. They couldn’t have simply caught a ride on a floating log because then they would have been washed out to sea when they hit the current,” said Everett, presenting his thesis at the meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Austin. “They needed to be able to paddle. And if they paddled they needed to be able to say ‘paddle there’ or ‘don’t paddle.’ You need communication with symbols not just grunts.”

It is unknown when language emerged among hominids; some argue that it is a feature only of our own species, Homo sapiens, which suggests a timing of no earlier than 200,000 years ago. But Everett believes it goes back further than that.

Everett says that H. erectus would have been unable to make the same range of sounds as we do, not least because they lacked the version of a gene necessary for speech and language to develop – known as FOXP2 – found in modern humans and Neanderthals, although it is not clear whether Neanderthals had language. But he argues that as few as two sounds are needed for a language, and that it is likely H.erectus could make more than that.

“They had what it took to invent language – and language is not as hard as many linguists have led us to believe. If you have symbols in a linear order then you have a grammar,” said Everett.

Continue reading…


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