Sapiens: Culture in an otherwise Homo(genus) world

The Cognitive revolution is marked as when homo sapiens began to think imaginatively and invent complexities and nuance never before seen in linguistics.  There is mounting evidence to support this theory of revolution that is dated to 70,000 years ago. With the introduction of these new characteristics of language, homo sapiens were able to communicate about non physically existent objects.  For the first time, a member of the homo genus was able to communicate about relationships among tribe members. This gave homo sapiens a distinct advantage over their Neanderthal counterparts; who, could then only communicate about what the physical objects around them.  Despite sporting smaller brains, homo sapiens were and are more capable social beings. The agricultural revolution began just 12,000 years ago. Homo sapiens had already impacted the world in profound ways. As the only remaining member of the homo genus on the planet, they conquered new lands like Australia and North America, hunting their megafauna to extinction with stone tools.  In North America, the cultivation of pumpkins lead the way to a new type of settlement. Some theorists have hypothesised that early homo sapiens may have realized the cultivation potential of plants by observing new plants growing along main trails; presumably from the seeds that have fallen from what was gathered by the band. As this revolution progressed, band sizes grew much larger, and women began having children at two or sometimes three times the rate they had.  With the addition of a language of Nuance, and then later the insight of agricultural domestication, early homo sapiens were lead on a path that has brought us to the immense civilizations we live in today.


Harari explains how crucial the expansion of language capability was for homo sapiens.  In addition to the ability to convey complexity of social relationships, homosapiens were now able to communicate about possible dangers, and hunt larger game more effectively.  The imaginatively capability of these early homo sapiens allowed them to convey complex ideas like the possibility of rights, and religious views. When compared to other members of the Homo genus, these linguistic adaptations worked just how natural selection has always worked; those best suited for the environment will reproduce and remain.  In violent confrontations, homo sapiens were more capable of organizing themselves, and subsisted in larger numbers. Additionally, Harari makes the point that homo sapiens were champions of innovation, if they lost the first or even second battles, it was far easier for them to communicate about their strategies for the next battle. Harari makes a convincing argument for the effects of the cognitive revolution, it is evident that we are all social creatures who love to gossip and talk.  I think it sensible to believe that our desire to communicate could have played a major role in our history.

2 thoughts on “Sapiens: Culture in an otherwise Homo(genus) world”

  1. I like your points. Homo Sapiens are a species who love to talk. A lot of cultures are centered around the idea of sitting around talking. When I did the reading, the part about being able to regroup and learn from mistakes did not really sink in so I am really glad that you chose to pull that point out. The ability to collectively learn from mistakes is something that sets us apart from other species. It is advantageous to be able to strategize when you are fighting a battle (literally or figuratively) especially when you are fighting against a team who lacks that ability.

  2. I agree that humans are social creatures. Speaking specifically to your example of the battlefield modern fighting doctrine revolves around a method called shoot, move, and communicate (SMC). In a fight you must communicate with your teammates in order to overcome obstacles. In the heat of a fight (or any other fast paced emergency like a house fire) it is essential to keep moving towards your objective and deal with any contingency that you may come across as the battlefield is fluid. The idea of SMC is to be able to alert your teammates to any changing threats or situations to allow your team to better come up with a solution to them. Life in general is fluid and the contingencies that befall humans like drought, a new tribe moving close to your borders, or diseases can be better dealt with when humans communicate. Homo sapiens ability to overcome contingencies through trial and error or improvisation and being able to communicate these methods to form a coordinated solution must have been paramount in helping them become the dominant species of human.

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