The First Italians

Before modern humans even existed, some of our ancient relatives were already in the process of conquering the world. This period of our history is surprisingly enigmatic, particularly in Europe. We know these early species – like Homo erectus – arrived in the region sometime between 1.7-1 million years ago, but not too much more than that.

Enter the site of Pirro Nord in Italy. Early stone tools were found there, sometime between 1.6-1.3 million years old, making it likely these are some of the first Italians (even if they aren’t the same species as modern Italians). This site sheds light on the chronology and technology of these early people.


And that hyoid bone. H. erectus has a lot of human attributes. Son of Adam? Father of Adam?

ETA sorry about the sexism. Mother etc?

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What about the hyoid? I can only think of one that’s ever been found belonging to Erectus and its anatomy and position of the throat doesn’t support the ability of speech @AlanFox

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What did H. erectus need that hyoid for? What did H. erectus need the large brain for?

Anchor point for muscles. Helps with tongue movement. Swallowing. Respiration.

As far as brain size goes, Erectus had some complex behaviors. But remember bigger brain size != more intelligience. Think of the variation among modern humans when it comes to brain size. No correlation. It’s the underlying neuroanatomy that dictates intelligience. And that’s somethimg we don’t know a lot about with Erectus.

The types of human “fossil” evidence we’d want to discover is any thing in the interior skull that shows the degree of crenellation, combined with the prominence of the Broca’s area and of the neocortex. This would also suggest an evaluation, if possible, of any associated hyoid.

[quote=“T.j_Runyon, post:6, topic:921, full:true”]
As far as brain size goes, Erectus had some complex behaviors.[/quote]

Is that speculative? :slight_smile:

But remember bigger brain size != more intelligience. Think of the variation among modern humans when it comes to brain size. No correlation. It's the underlying neuroanatomy that dictates intelligience.
Not sure that there is no correlation between number of neuronal connections and intelligence. Though I'd also suggest "intelligence" is a property that's impossible to measure objectively, certainly in comparisons across species.
And that's somethimg we don't know a lot about with Erectus.
Something else we don't know about H. erectus.

H. erectus had language, culture, tool industry. The mountains of evidence of this is present in the recently published book:

At the time, H. erectus was the most cognitively advanced species that the world had seen.

Regarding the hyoid bone, there is no way that H.erectus could have produced the same kind of quality of speech in terms of ability to clearly discriminate the same range of speech sounds in perception or production as modern humans. None of this means that H. erectus would have been incapable of language. Erectus had sufficient memory to retain a large number of symbols, at least in the thousands and would have been able , in the use of context and culture, to disambiguate symbols that were insufficiently distinct in their formats due to the lesser articulation capacity of erectus.

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Grand article, my friend.


I believe I like that book already.

First, I didn’t say anything about language. I was referring to speech. Second, it’s pretty much the consensus that Everett’s work is very low quality

Please elaborate the difference between speech and language. Regarding Everett’s work, who is this consensus of low quality

And how is GA being a Neanderthal contrary to that?

I believe that this should be a required reading in a undergraduate college linguistics class. Perhaps the class be on the 300 level. I want to thank you Patrick for showing this to us. I hope that others agree. They should.

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You are more than welcomed. I am in the middle of it now and find it fascinating. The evidence of H.erectus at 1.8 million years having language and culture is very persuasive. What’s your take as a linguist? Also, it has been mentioned here that Daniel L. Everett’s work is of low quality. Do you feel that way?

I feel just by the title that this is a very good book. It should be used as a college text book on the undergraduate level. You have picked a good read, Patrick. I have not had the opportunity the read many of his books; however, I sincerely believe this will make the best reading list for linguists list. Well worth reading. Perhaps I can get it for December.

Could you summarize the evidence for this?

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The whole book provides much evidence. Take a look at preface.

The preface makes the claim that H. erectus had language, but that’s all it does. I was asking for evidence. Could you at least give a hint on what sort of evidence the book presents?

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