The Day We Learned to Think

Creative humans are the only animals that continuously reinvent their own behaviour through creative thinking and thereby dominate their world. We are surrounded by objects that are entirely made up by human mind. Mostly everything we live in is man-made. For a long time, anthropologists have been looking for an evidence that proves the first appearance of human creativity.

Being an universal language, art serves as such an evidence, since it can only be done by someone who is able to think in order to talk this language. Archaeologists found the earliest evidence for a language in form of cave paintings in Europe which date back 35 thousand years from today. Also other objects like complex tools and simple jewellery have been found there.

Parallel to the findings belonging to our ancestors, they also found objects that could be attributed to the Neanderthals which had been living in Europe already for tens of thousands of years before. But these objects did not tell anything about artistic activities amongst our relatives which made scientists believe that they had no ability for language at all.

Subsequently, the modern Homo sapiens overcame the physically stronger Neanderthal easily and made them vanish quickly. This success seemed to be the signal for the power of modern human creativity to dominate its own world. And it all stared 40 thousand years ago in Europe.

Lately, anatomic evidences have been found, that prove the ability for language also for the Neanderthals, dating back even 160 thousand years earlier: a certain bone that only can be found in the body of the Homo sapiens. But missing signs of any creative output brought scientists to the conclusion that even if the Neanderthals and the Homo sapiens had the physical ability to speak way longer than scientists had thought, they somehow lacked the ability to use that feature.

It seemed like that a magic moment must have happened where the brain of the Homo sapiens spontaneously mutated and thereby got the ability to turn this already developed feature into a skill.

In the year 2000, a spectacular discovery, revealing traces of artistic expression in a cave on the East coast of South Africa dating back over 70 thousand years, then challenged all the theories of humanities creative evolution that have been set together by scientists over the last decades.

The trace, a symmetric pattern that proved to have been intentionally scraped into a fist-size piece of ochre, showed that an intelligent being, capable of thinking, talking and producing art had been there way before the date scientists had assumed.

This dramatic find changes human evolution theory at its most crucial point. There is no whatsoever magic moment through freak mutation of our brains and also not through being touched by the hand of god. But there is a gradual evolution of human creativity which is spread over the whole African continent and over many hundreds of thousands of years.

Again, if there was no such dramatic change, 40 thousand years ago in Europe, then why had the Homo sapiens evolved and the Neanderthals had not?

As it turns out, a whole class of evidence referring to the Neanderthal`s creative capabilities had been overlooked. Small pieces of manganese oxide had been found which had been rubbed off on a ether human or animal skin in order to form a small pencil. This proved that the Neanderthals, at the same time as the modern humans in Africa, had also been capable of some sort of symbolic thoughts and expression and therefore art.

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Bbc.co.uk

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