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Experimental evidence for the co-evolution of hominin tool-making teaching and language

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Hominin reliance on Oldowan stone tools—which appear from 2. Across six measures, transmission improves with teaching, and particularly with language, but not with imitation or emulation. This work supports a gradual evolution of language, with simple symbolic communication preceding behavioural modernity by hundreds of thousands of years. From 2. Existing remains show systematic flake detachment, maintenance of flaking angles and repair of damaged cores 4. This complexity, along with present-day tool-making experiments 5 , implies that Oldowan technology was learned and required considerable practice 1 , 6.

The hammerstone strikes the core with the goal of producing a flake. The platform edge and angle are important to the success of knapping. For each condition, six chains were carried out four short and two long ; one of two trained experimenters started each chain equally within each condition.

Whether Oldowan stone tool making has implications for the evolution of human language and teaching defined as active information donation 9 is debated 10 , Positions range from the view that Oldowan tool making indicates a major development in hominin cognition 8 , such as teaching or language 12 , to the hypothesis that chimpanzee-like emulation or imitation reproducing the object manipulations or motor patterns of others, respectively is sufficient to transmit knapping technology The absence of clear cultural change during this window seems inconsistent with the presence of language, and remains an outstanding mystery more generally Across disciplines, researchers are increasingly turning to gene-culture co-evolutionary accounts to explain the evolution of human cognitive abilities, including teaching and language 10 , 13 , 20 , 21 , 22 , 23 , 24 , 25 , 26 , 27 , 28 , 29 , 30 , Central to such hypotheses is the idea that cultural traits can both shape and be shaped by genetic evolution, and a number of examples of gene-culture co-evolution are now known from human evolution 26 , 27 , 28 , 29 , Hominin stone tool manufacture is a particularly interesting candidate case as the appearance of such technology 2.

Furthermore, due to the challenging ecological niche that early hominins occupied 20 , 32 and the difficulty of acquiring tool-making skills 6 , fitness benefits were likely associated with the ability to make and deploy effective cutting tools 32 as well as the ability to rapidly transmit the skills 33 , and so a co-evolutionary relationship between tool making and cognition, specifically teaching and language, would seem plausible.

Accordingly, Oldowan stone tool production could have generated selection for more complex forms of social transmission that enhanced the fidelity of information transmission. This could have resulted in a form of social transmission sufficient to transmit Acheulean technology reliably, and which would then generate selection for further increases in the complexity of social transmission, and so on.

If this hypothesis is correct, changes in hominin cognition, including those underlying the appearance of Acheulean technology, could have depended upon selection generated by a reliance on Oldowan technology. In support of this hypothesis, archaeological remains show that changes to hominin morphology, including increased overall brain size, follow the advent of Oldowan tool making 3.

Other recent work has linked the cultural evolution of technologies to the capacity for high-fidelity social transmission 9 , 33 , 34 , However, hitherto such studies have either been theoretical or limited to somewhat artificial and abstract tasks. Accordingly, whether hominin lithic technology and social transmission genuinely represents a case of gene-culture co-evolution is currently unclear.

Experiments with contemporary humans have provided insights into the cognitive and motor processes supporting lithic technology 23 , 24 , and could also establish which mechanisms support its transmission.

However, research on the social transmission of tool making is very limited. For instance, a review of Acheulean tool making found that reduction strategies were highly consistent across individuals Only two studies have directly investigated the ability of contemporary adult humans to make tools following different means of social transmission, both comparing the efficacy of speech with symbolic gestural communication.

The second investigated bifacial knapping 39 a technique associated with Acheulean technology. Although the tools produced in both conditions showed similar shape, symmetry and quality, the two groups used different techniques, with verbally taught participants more accurately replicating the technique of the instructor even though they lacked the skill to enact it effectively As verbal and gestural communication are both symbolic forms of communication, further differences may yet emerge if a wider range of social transmission mechanisms, including imitation, emulation and subtle forms of pedagogy, are considered.

This is particularly relevant to the manufacture of Oldowan technology, where the debate over the underlying transmission mechanisms is at its fiercest. Here we present a large-scale experimental study testing the capability of five social learning mechanisms to transmit Oldowan stone knapping techniques across multiple transmission events.

By establishing the relative rates of transmission resulting from different means of communication, we aimed to provide insights into which forms of communication might have been selected for as a result of reliance on tool use.

In total, participants took part, producing over 6, pieces of flint, each of which was weighed, measured and assessed for quality using a novel metric that we developed and verified. We find that, across six measures, performance increases with teaching and, particularly, language. Our findings support a gene-culture co-evolutionary account of human evolution in which reliance on Oldowan tools would have generated selection favouring teaching and, ultimately, language.

We suggest that Oldowan cultural evolution was limited, in part, by low-fidelity social transmission mechanisms. Accordingly, this work supports an early origin for language. Across numerous measures of individual performance, we consistently found that teaching and language, but not imitation or emulation, enhanced the acquisition of stone knapping skills relative to reverse engineering see Table 1. For instance, total flake quality only showed clear improvement with gestural or verbal teaching Fig.

The number of viable flakes produced shows a similar pattern Fig. Across the six measures there is strong evidence that verbal teaching increases performance relative to gestural teaching. More complex forms of communication, in particular verbal teaching, increased several measures of participant performance, including a the total quality of all flakes, b the number of viable flakes, c the proportion of flakes that were viable, d the rate at which viable flakes were made, e the proportion of the core knapped and f the probability that each hit resulted in a viable flake.

With reverse engineering, performance did not decline along chains, suggesting it was already at floor levels. Position 1 corresponds to the first participant, not the trained experimenter. In all conditions, as expected, performance decreased along chains relative to the trained experimenter as information was lost.

For instance, with verbal teaching, the probability that each hit produced a viable flake Fig. Analyses of the utterances by participants in the verbal teaching condition showed that both the total number of utterances spoken and the proportion of teaching-related utterances that were correct also decreased along the chain Fig. The rate of decline varied with topic, with knowledge of both the exterior platform angle and force-carrying ridges rapidly lost, but information concerning the platform edge being preserved for longer and with greater accuracy see Table 2.

For a full listing of all model estimates, see Supplementary Tables 1—6. The central finding of this work is that the social transmission of Oldowan technology is enhanced by teaching and, in particular, by language. This is in line with a gene-culture co-evolutionary account of human evolution and supports the hypothesis that Oldowan stone tool manufacture generated selection favouring increasingly complex teaching and language 13 , 24 , As such, we cannot rule out the possibility that with a longer learning period, performance across conditions would have converged.

However, given that knapping skills are known to take years to develop fully 6 , 41 , we suspect that increasing the time spent learning would initially only increase the differences in performance across conditions, with any convergence only occurring after extensive learning.

Given their magnitude, the observed differences in performance between conditions would likely translate into significant fitness differences in the shorter term. For example, if verbal teaching provided transmission benefits, but simpler forms of teaching did not, then the co-evolutionary process would not be able to account for the evolution of these simpler forms of teaching.

Likewise, if the transmission of tool making benefitted from simple teaching, but gained no further benefit from verbal teaching, then the co-evolutionary process would stop with simpler forms of teaching and could not explain the evolution of verbal teaching. Accordingly, our data imply that Oldowan tool making would have created a continuous selective gradient leading from observational learning to much more complex verbal teaching.

This process need not have taken place entirely within the Oldowan, but was probably already underway during the Oldowan and likely continued well after, as Oldowan tools continued to be made for hundreds of thousands of years beyond the Oldowan time period. Furthermore, assuming that the transmission of more complex technologies also benefits from more complex means of communication, later technologies would have reinforced the gene-culture co-evolutionary dynamic.

Such a process could have lasted for millions of years and may be ongoing 29 , with more complex communication allowing the stable and rapid transmission of increasingly complex technologies, which in turn generate selection for even more complex communication and cognition, and so forth. Although this places little necessary constraint on when teaching and language may have evolved, our central contribution is to provide evidence that Oldowan tools, produced by hominins since at least 2.

We suggest that the rapid decline of performance with teaching and language to this baseline merely reflects the short learning time employed in this study. Previous transmission chain studies have established that periods of individual practice can bolster the stability of socially transmitted knowledge This suggests that with more time to learn, with bouts of teaching and language integrated with periods of individual practice, the benefits of teaching and language would likely have been preserved for longer.

Likewise, a benefit of observational learning relative to reverse engineering may well appear over a longer learning period.

However, our data suggest that any such benefit is likely to be less than the benefit that would be derived through teaching across a similar timespan because of the improved rate of transmission with teaching.

Accordingly, although we do not suggest that imitation is insufficient to transmit the technology per se , our findings support other recent work in implying that observation alone is an inefficient means to acquire stone tool-making skills 23 , 44 , Limited information concerning tool manufacture can, no doubt, be rapidly acquired through imitation or emulation; for instance, the basics of core, hammerstone or flake selection 36 , the requirement to strike the core with the hammerstone and some idea of the force are required.

However, it seems plausible that the rapid striking action associated with tool manufacture hinders the transmission of more subtle information crucial to knapping, such as details of the point of percussion or the platform edge and angle, through observation alone.

Indeed, transcripts from the verbal teaching condition show that abstract knapping concepts, such as the platform angle, were transmitted between individuals in the verbal teaching condition see Supplementary Fig. Language not only allows transmission of the skill itself, but also the ability to transmit the skill to others effectively. Third, our findings have implications for one of the most enduring puzzles of human evolution: the apparent stasis of the Oldowan technocomplex, which lasted , years 8 , 11 , 19 , Our experiment suggests that Oldowan technological change could have been restricted by low-fidelity forms of social transmission that prevented the spread of innovations.

This suggestion is supported by the slow spread of Oldowan technology across Africa, which indicates that this technology was difficult for Oldowan hominins to transmit 3. Furthermore, the acquisition of Oldowan knapping skills is not trivial even for modern humans, as shown by our finding that the benefits of teaching and language were rapidly lost in transmission.

Although we cannot conclusively identify what form Oldowan transmission might have taken, our data indicate imitation or emulation as likely candidates. In naturalistic contexts, the relatively poor transmission that we observed with imitation and emulation could well be too slow and imprecise for innovations to be transmitted reliably, leaving the technology unable to increase in complexity until more effective communication had evolved. The suggestion that low-fidelity social transmission is a limiting factor on technological development might contribute to an understanding of why human culture is so complex compared with the behavioural traditions of non-human animals 46 , Although human social transmission has allowed the cumulative elaboration of a vast number of technologies and behaviours, non-human animal social transmission has not.

It seems possible that this is because non-human animal social transmission, which appears to be largely limited to forms of observational learning less sophisticated than those of humans 43 , lacks the fidelity required to transmit more complex innovations, thus constraining cumulative cultural evolution 34 , 35 , Even the modest knapping ability of extensively trained bonobos 49 , 50 may rely on their prior training in symbolic communication Although it is plausible that a similar co-evolutionary process has operated to a lesser degree in some other species, such as other apes 52 , it remains an open question as to why their tool use did not generate selection for the higher-fidelity social transmission teaching and language observed in humans.

One possibility is that the technologies of other apes are either sufficiently simple that they can be acquired through more basic mechanisms or so hard to acquire that they can only rarely be transmitted successfully, removing the benefit to teaching 9. Task difficulty might also explain a previous experimental finding that simple transmission mechanisms were sufficient for cumulative cultural evolution in the context of human paper-plane design 53 ; this task may be sufficiently simple that teaching is of little benefit.

Alternatively, ape reliance on tool use could be insufficient for the benefits of tool-use to outweigh the costs of complex social transmission, thus preventing teaching from increasing fitness 9. Any of these constraints would undermine selection for higher-fidelity social transmission, hindering the co-evolutionary process. Given that our findings support a co-evolution of Oldowan tool use and complex communication, it might seem puzzling that the Oldowan stasis should last so long.

If the selective advantage was present, why did more complex communication not evolve for , years? A likely explanation is that more complex communication may well have evolved during the Oldowan, but that this alone was insufficient for the evolution of stone tool technology. The appearance of Acheulean tools may have additionally been contingent on the evolution of other aspects of cognition, such as technical comprehension or the hierarchical planning of actions 54 , 55 , 56 , as well as demographic and socio-ecological factors 57 , Accordingly, the extraordinary length of the Oldowan stasis could indicate that a large number of limiting factors needed to be overcome before innovations could appear and spread.

Given this, our findings imply that the appearance of Acheulean tools 1. We cannot specify the form of this transmission with precision. However, given the observation that chimpanzees are capable of some form of observational learning, yet cannot produce stone tools approaching the quality of the earliest known Oldowan examples 13 , combined with the complexity of Acheulean technology 36 , we suggest that teaching in the form of facilitated observation similar to our basic teaching condition is the minimal plausible form of social transmission for Acheulean hominins and that rudimentary forms of language are a possibility.

Stone tools, language and the brain in human evolution

Evidence of cultural influences on cognition is accumulating, but untangling these cultural influences from one another or from non-cultural influences has remained a challenging task. As between-group differences are neither a sufficient nor a necessary indicator of cultural impact, cross-cultural comparisons in isolation are unable to furnish any cogent conclusions. This shortfall can be compensated by taking a diachronic perspective that focuses on the role of culture for the emergence and evolution of our cognitive abilities. While these strategies are reliant on our understanding of present-day cognition, they conversely also have the potential to advance this understanding in fundamental ways. Human cognition is profoundly shaped by culture. This is perhaps more evident for some domains than for others, but striking examples abound: orientation in and referencing to space and time Levinson, ; Haun et al. As much as they are rendered possible by endowed capacities, all of these cognitive abilities, activities, and achievements are also predicated on culture, be it by way of culturally accumulated and transmitted knowledge, culture-specific concepts and framework theories, cultural tools, conventions, and practices, or simply by the fact that we are a cultural species Tomasello et al.

The Oxford Handbook of Language Evolution presents critical accounts of every aspect of the field. Research on language evolution has burgeoned over the last three decades. Interdisciplinary activity has produced fundamental advances in the understanding of language evolution and in human and primate evolution more generally. This book presents a wide-ranging summation of work in all the disciplines involved. It highlights the links in different lines of research, shows what has been achieved to date, and considers the most promising directions for future work.

However, no flintknapping study has assessed the efficiency of speech alone unassisted by gesture as a tool-making transmission aid. The results provide evidence that gesture was likely to be selected over speech as a teaching aid in the earliest hominin tool-makers; that speech could not have replaced gesturing as a tool-making teaching aid in later hominins, possibly explaining the functional retention of gesturing in the full language of modern humans; and that speech may have evolved for reasons unrelated to tool-making. We conclude that speech is unlikely to have evolved as tool-making teaching aid superior to gesture, as claimed by the technological hypothesis, and therefore alternative views should be considered. For example, gestural language may have evolved to enable tool-making in earlier hominins, while speech may have later emerged as a response to increased trade and more complex inter- and intra-group interactions in Middle Pleistocene ancestors of Neanderthals and Homo sapiens ; or gesture and speech may have evolved in parallel rather than in sequence. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Tools, Language and Cognition in Human Evolution. $ (P). Authors: Kathleen R. Gibson, University of Texas Health Science Center.

Evolutionary variation

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De Petrillo, F.

Stone Tools and the Evolution of Human Cognition

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Skip to search form Skip to main content You are currently offline. Some features of the site may not work correctly. DOI: Stout and T. Stout , T. Long-standing speculations and more recent hypotheses propose a variety of possible evolutionary connections between language, gesture and tool use. View on Royal Society.

Thank you for visiting nature. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer. In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript. Hominin reliance on Oldowan stone tools—which appear from 2.

PDF | On Jan 1, , I. Davidson and others published Tools and evolution reflected developments in brains and cognition: Put simply.

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У нее часто возникало чувство, что Стратмор не слишком высокого мнения о Дэвиде и считает, что она могла бы найти себе кого-то поинтереснее, чем простой преподаватель.  - Коммандер, - сказала она, - если вы инструктировали Дэвида сегодня утром по телефону из машины, кто-то мог перехватить… - Один шанс на миллион, - возразил Стратмор, стараясь ее успокоить.  - Подслушивающий должен был находиться в непосредственной близости и точно знать, что надо подслушивать.  - Он положил руку ей на плечо.  - Я никогда не послал бы туда Дэвида, если бы считал, что это связано хоть с малейшей опасностью.  - Он улыбнулся.  - Поверь .

Само ее существование противоречило основным правилам криптографии. Она посмотрела на шефа. - Вы уничтожите этот алгоритм сразу же после того, как мы с ним познакомимся. - Конечно. Так, чтобы не осталось и следа.

Он забыл нажать кнопку, которая отключила звук. Этот прибор он купил в магазине электроники, оплатив покупку наличными, чтобы сохранить анонимность. Никто лучше его не знал, как тщательно следило агентство за своими сотрудниками, поэтому сообщения, приходящие на этот пейджер, как и отправляемые с него, Стратмор старательно оберегал от чужих глаз. Сьюзан опасливо огляделась. Если до этого Хейл не знал, что они идут, то теперь отлично это понял.

Наделенный феноменальной памятью и способностями к языкам, он знал шесть азиатских языков, а также прекрасно владел испанским, французским и итальянским. На его лекциях по этимологии яблоку негде было упасть, и он всегда надолго задерживался в аудитории, отвечая на нескончаемые вопросы. Он говорил авторитетно и увлеченно, не обращая внимания на восторженные взгляды студенток.

Стратмор закрыл дверцу холодильника и без тени волнения взглянул на Чатрукьяна. - Ты имеешь в виду работающий монитор. Чатрукьян растерялся. - Так вы обратили внимание.

Стратмор попытался их удержать, но не сумел. За мгновение до того, как они сомкнулись, Сьюзан, потеряв равновесие, упала на пол за дверью. Коммандер, пытаясь приоткрыть дверь, прижал лицо вплотную к узенькой щелке. - Господи Боже мой, Сьюзан, с тобой все в порядке.

On Tools Making Minds: an Archaeological Perspective on Human Cognitive Evolution

Шифр в миллион бит едва ли можно было назвать реалистичным сценарием.