First oral communication
Scientists have long wondered how language evolved among humans. The results of the latest study present evidence pointing to stone tool-making as having played a big role in the language evolution and its teaching. It is predicted that the first oral communication among humans happened about 2.5 million years back, and that it was due to the making of tools.
The study posits that our prehistoric human ancestors who were living in the African savannah were able to develop a form of primitive language in an effort to teach one another about making tools out of stone, which were of critical importance to their survival.
This conclusion was arrived at after the scientists conducted experiments on how to teach Oldowan stone knapping to 184 college student volunteers. This ancient method of hewing tools from stone started more than two million years ago. For more than 700,000 years these stone tools were used for animal butchery and have remained unchanged, with their use spreading across the African continent. The creation of the butchering flakes involved the hammering of hard rock against other solid materials such as glassy volcanic rocks, flint and basalt. Oldowan tools are the oldest known cutting implements made of stone, and believed to be created by Homo habilis, and probably by the Paranthropus boisei, Australopithecus garhi and Homo rudolfensis.
The researchers used five different methods to teach the knapping skills to their volunteers. They found out that verbal communication was the most effective way for the volunteers to follow the instructions. Gestures, non-verbal presentation and imitation did not work. When they verbalized the instructions, the volunteers were able to create the best quality and high quantity of flakes in the smallest amount of time and with the least wastage.
Advent of proto-language and teaching
Thomas Morgan said that their findings indicate that the stone tools, which were admittedly a result of human evolution, were also what drove evolution as well, which led to the development of language and teaching. Oldowan stone knapping started in Eastern Africa during the Lower Paleolithic age and remained as is until the development of Acheulean cleavers and hand axes. Since the Oldowan tools were in high demand, the scientists conclude that there was some form of teaching and learning through verbal communication that was developed, otherwise, it would have been very difficult for the more modern Acheulean technology and industry to develop.