A head for language

Of all the tools humans have created, from stone arrowheads to computers, the most important, if not the most obvious, may be language.

We don’t necessarily think of language the way we think of other tools, but there’s evidence that suggests that they have become linked in our evolution. Other animals, after all, can communicate with each other vocally, and many have been observed using simple tools. But archaeology suggests that an important event in human evolution, perhaps when many elements of the human spark emerged, occurred at about the same time we started making more complicated and refined stone tools. When we use a tool, areas of our brain adjacent to the regions used for language become active. It’s likely that tool use and complex language both have their roots in a particular way of thinking that has evolved uniquely in humans.

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The biggest brains on the block