How metaphors changed the course of evolution

How metaphors changed the course of evolution

Neanderthal (Neanderthal) fascinated both researchers and the general public. These principles remain central to discussions about the nature of gender Homo (The broad biological classification into which humans and their relatives fall). Neanderthals are also vital to understanding whether or not our species is unique, Homo sapiens.

We share an ancestor with Neanderthals about 600,000 years ago. They evolved in Europe, while we evolved in Africa, before spreading several times into Eurasia. Neanderthals became extinct about 40,000 years ago. We inhabit the world and continue to thrive. It has long been debated whether this different outcome is the result of differences in language and thinking.

But evidence suggests fundamental differences between our species' brains and those of Neanderthals, which allowed modern humans (H. sane) Present abstract and complex ideas through metaphors – the ability to compare two unrelated things. For this to happen, our species had to differ from Neanderthals in the structure of our brains.

Some experts interpret structural and archaeological evidence to indicate profound differences. Others believe there was nothing. and some They are in the middle.

The disagreement is not surprising when trying to deduce such intangibles from material remains such as bones and artefacts. The evidence is fragmentary and ambiguous, giving us a complex puzzle about how, when and why language evolved. Fortunately, recent discoveries in archeology and other disciplines have added several new pieces to this linguistic puzzle, allowing a viable picture of the Neanderthal mind to emerge.

New anatomical evidence suggests that Neanderthals had vocal tracts and auditory passages not much different from ours, suggesting that, from an anatomical perspective, they were as capable as we are of Communication through speech. Discovery of Neanderthal genes in our species Indicates multiple episodes Of crossing, which means effective communication and social relations between species.

The discovery of wooden spears by Neanderthals and the use of resins to make tools from separate components also improved our view of humans. Your technical skills. Pendants made from bird claws and the potential use of sanctions Body decorations They are examples of symbolism, along with the geometric patterns found on them Stone and bone.

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Cave painters?

The most impressive claim is that Neanderthals created art, Red pigment painted on the walls of caves in Spain. But many of these claims regarding cave art remain problematic. Evidence of Neanderthal rock art is Due to unresolved methodological issues It is unlikely to be true, in my opinion.

Rapid accumulation of evidence on Existence 40,000 years ago Of modern humans in Europe It challenges the idea that Neanderthals made these geometric designs, or at least that they made them before the influence of modern symbol-using humans. No matter how well made, a wooden spear is little more than a pointed stick, and there is no evidence of technological progress during Neanderthals' entire existence.

Although archaeological evidence remains disputed, evidence from neuroscience and genetics provides a compelling case for linguistic and cognitive differences between H. Neanderthal that it H. Al-Aqil.

It appears that Neanderthals used feathers as body adornment.

A 3D digital reconstruction of a Neanderthal brain, created by deforming a Neanderthal brain H. sane And installed in an endocast of a Neanderthal man, It indicates significant differences in structure. Neanderthals had a relatively large occipital lobe, devoting more brain matter to visual processing and leaving less available for other tasks, such as language.

They also had a relatively small and differently shaped cerebellum. This subcortical structure, filled with neurons, contributes to many tasks, including Language processing, speech and fluency. The exclusive spherical shape of The evolution of the modern human brain After the first Homo sapiens They appeared 300 thousand years ago.

Some of the genetic mutations associated with this development are related to the development of neurons and the way neurons are connected in the brain. Authors A Comprehensive study of all mutations It is known to be exclusive to H. Al-Aqil (as of 2019) concluded that “complex network modifications in perception or learning have occurred in recent human evolution.”

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Iconic words

As this evidence accumulated, our understanding of language also changed. There are three developments of particular interest. The first was the discovery, in 2016, through brain scans, that we store words, or rather the concepts that we associate with words, In the cerebral hemispheres and in groupsOr semantic sets of similar concepts in the brain. This is important because, as we will see, the way these sets of ideas are related – or not – may have been different between Homo sapiens and Neanderthals.

The second is to realize that distinct sounds—those that provide a sensory impression of what they represent— Provided the evolutionary bridge Between the ape-like calls of our common ancestors 6 million years ago and The first words spoken by Homo – Although we don't know for sure what species they are.

Symbolic words Continue to be present in current languagesCapturing the sound, size, movement and texture aspects of the concept represented by the word. This contrasts with words that are only randomly associated with the thing they refer to. For example, dogs may be called a hound, a hound, or a hound—none of which provide a sensory impression of the animal.

Third, computer simulation models of intergenerational language transmission have shown that syntax—the consistent rules for how words are arranged to generate meaning— It may arise spontaneously. This shift in emphasis from genetic encoding of syntax to spontaneous emergence suggests that both are a language Homo sapiens Neanderthals had these rules.

The main difference

While it may be possible to put the pieces of the puzzle together in many different ways, my long struggle with interdisciplinary evidence has found only one solution. It begins with distinct words spoken by ancient humankind Homo erectus About 1.6 million years ago.

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As these types of words were passed from generation to generation, random words and grammatical rules emerged, giving rise to the early Neanderthals and Neanderthals. H. sane Equal linguistic and cognitive abilities.

But these abilities diverged as the two species continued to evolve. brain H. sane It developed its spherical shape through neural networks connecting what were isolated semantic groups of words. These remained isolated in the Neanderthal brain. Therefore, although Homo sapiens and Neanderthals had equal capacity for iconic words and sentence structure, they appear to have differed with respect to storing ideas in semantic sets in the brain.

By connecting different brain clusters responsible for storing sets of concepts, our species gained the ability to think and communicate using metaphors. This has allowed modern humans to draw a line between widely different concepts and ideas.

This was undoubtedly our most important cognitive tool. Allowing us to create complex and abstract concepts. Although they share distinct words and syntax between them H. sane And the Neanderthals, this metaphor changed the language, thought, and culture of our species, creating a profound division with the Neanderthals. They became extinct, while we populated the world and continued to thrive.

*Stephen Mithen, Professor of Prehistory at the University of Reading

This article was republished from Conversation Under Creative Commons license. Read the original text here.

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