Homo what?

Humans used to be nothing more than just another living organism inhabiting planet earth. There was nothing particularly extraordinary about them that would separate humans from elephants or baboons. There was some sort of language and means of communication, but it would have been little more than grunts, squeals, and other primitive noises. Humans lived in groups and colonies, but a community rivaling the size of one of our cities would be unimaginable back then. It wasn’t until Homo sapiens developed the ability to communicate with complex sounds in a manner that evolved to be a precursor to language (as we know it today.)

This ability to communicate in a much more complex way allowed humans to gossip, which led to the evolution of large communities. With a comprehensive language, humans were able to keep track of a large number of their peers, which led to gossip; it is the fundamental reason communities are able to hold. One human cannot maintain constant connections with everyone he has met, but with gossip, the community can stay interconnected.

Alas, this is how strong communities of humans were formed. Homo sapiens are the only humans that developed this complex means of communication. Homo sapiens and homo neanderthals were the last two species of humans to inhabit the earth, and there is much speculation as to how we, sapiens, are the last remaining human species.

One of the theories has to do with our invention of language. Sapiens originate from Northern Africa, and neanderthals from Europe. One idea is that when sapiens ventured up to Europe, they found neanderthals there and suddenly the two species were competing for resources. Sapiens (which means “wise man”) are thought to have been more effective in hunting, gathering, and other means of survival, and the neanderthals would have soon died out. This is only one theory, but quite a logical one.

It is quite obvious how important language has been to the formation of the relationships that are unique to homo sapiens, and the formation of massive societies. There are now about six-and-a-half thousand spoken languages on earth. A couple thousand of these have less than one thousand speakers, and the average person can probably name 10–20 languages off the top of his head. Someone who speaks more than a couple languages commands great respect from his peers. A lot can also be learned about someone’s culture and their psychological tendencies by studying their spoken language, such as their pronunciation, idioms, vocabulary, and intonation.

When we look upon our global society today, with homo sapiens inhabiting every continent, and even tiny islands in the middle of the ocean, it is hard to imagine how this came to be, that we could have successfully spread through and come to dominate earth. The answer is not as simple as just language, but it is a huge key to the mystery.