, ,

The 300,000 year old skeletal remains recently found in Morocco are clearly Homo sapiens, but I would assert that those people probably didn’t speak well. They were not what is sometimes called Homo sapiens sapiens. The Moroccan humans could probably breed successfully with modern humans because other Africans who came to Europe only 40,000 years ago interbred with Neanderthals, and those speaking Africans had probably been separated from Neanderthals for 400,000 years. The non-evolutionary development of Neanderthals’ stone tool technology makes it unlikely that they had the genes necessary for grammar and thus the ability to speak in sentences.

It is likely that neither the Neanderthals nor the Moroccans had the genes necessary for grammar and thus to speak in sentences until those speaking Africans brought that ability to them. The Neanderthal and Moroccan stone tools were sophisticated enough to have individual usages but they were changing noticeably only in a hundred-thousand-year time frame. When the grammar gene appeared about eighty thousand years ago in Africa in some local group it proved to be so useful that it permitted the descendants with that gene to out-compete all the other groups that lacked it. That DNA gene for grammar, possibly came into existence only one time, then evolved into a group of genes which spread throughout all the human populations of the world.

The European Neanderthals were physically isolated until the arrival of the language-bearing people, commonly called Cro-Magnon. These language bearers had already developed a more advanced technology by the time they left Africa. Once a group has language they have a much better ability to communicate what works and what doesn’t and thus to pass a more effective culture to their descendants.

A living person living in a small language-speaking community would see only a few technical and cultural changes in their lifetime, but in a few thousand years of accumulated cultural wisdom, their culture would be able to gather far more food from a given environment and thus to have larger populations. The replacement of the former occupants of an area need not be particularly violent but the more primitive technology of the non-speaking natives couldn’t maintain them against better speaking hunters with a better technology. With only modest violence between the non-speakers and the speakers, there would be inbreeding. In Europe, the genetic interbreeding of the two groups is still observable in the DNA but in Africa, the markers will be harder to trace because of the greater DNA mixing permitted by the ease of continent-wide travel. In Europe, there was a one-time mixing event. It may have been very slow by modern time standards but it was overwhelming and complete.

My point is that these 300,000-year-old Moroccans were not on a route back to the origins of Homo sapiens; our modern species Homo sapiens sapiens came into existence 200,000 years later with the DNA that permits human grammar, that is, the putting together of meaningful combinations of words.

Our “species” origins will be found in the middens where there was a technology undergoing a consistent major developmental change in a few thousand years.