The origins of modernity: was autonomous speech the critical factor?

Research paper by Michael C MC Corballis

Indexed on: 07 Apr '04Published on: 07 Apr '04Published in: Psychological review


Although Homo sapiens emerged in Africa some 170000 years ago, the origins of "modern" behavior, as expressed in technology and art, are attributed to people who migrated out of Africa around 50000 years ago, creating what has been called a human revolution in Europe and Asia. There is recent evidence that a mutation of the FOXP2 gene (forkhead box P2), important for the development of articulate speech, occurred some time within the past 100000 years. This event may have allowed speech to become fully autonomous, so that language no longer depended on a visuomanual component. The consequent freeing of the hands and development of pedagogy may have led to the technological advances that allowed H. sapiens to dominate and eventually replace all other hominids.