The writing on the wall
Did humans speak through cave art? New paper links ancient drawings and language’s origins
When and where did humans develop language? To find out, look deep inside caves, suggests an MIT professor.
More precisely, some specific features of cave art may provide clues about how our symbolic, multifaceted language capabilities evolved, according to a new paper co-authored by MIT linguist Shigeru Miyagawa.
A key to this idea is that cave art is often located in acoustic “hot spots,” where sound echoes strongly, as some scholars have observed. Those drawings are located in deeper, harder-to-access parts of caves, indicating that acoustics was a principal reason for the placement of drawings within caves. The drawings, in turn, may represent the sounds that early humans generated in those spots.