nice try, Homo erectus

Science News among others reported a find of a shell with clearly scratched lines, a sort of N combined with a W or vice versa, by Homo erectus over 400,000 years ago. Our man is No. 3 here (and we are No. 6).

By Волков В.П. (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Волков В.П. (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

That’s almost 300,000 years before Homo sapiens began to swim in the gene pool, much less began to glyph around. One archeologist commented that what we understand to be modern human behavior needs some revision. I believe that truth has been blowing in the wind for some time now, with big gusts since Darwin but a strong breeze continues even from Copernicus and Galileo.

I thought more about the idea mentioned last post, i.e., our minds beginning with intimacy and ending with intellectual endeavors, perhaps as two endpoints of that specific segment or arc on the continuum of evolution and now our development. Now I wonder if this shell comes from an early try to make a glyph in the effort to communicate mental musings with others. If so, it didn’t help them survive because that specific lineage died out long ago, though we do not understand this well due to so little data. We moderns assuredly share many of our genes with them because we do with every body else. But here we maybe have a simple and early example of the intimate-intellectual continuum, a very short arc as it were back then:

So, on an island in the south Pacific, one individual uses a shark’s tooth to scratch lines on a shell and another wonders what the other one is cogitating about. This occurs presumably long before human culture had coalesced and begun to fill our minds and the gap between them with memes, maybe even before language had evolved to the point where reporting on the virtual reality of our interiority was done with facility. I don’t see this as a meme (maybe an ur-meme) because of the lack of a coherent meaning conveyed in its expression. This does illustrate to my mind how our keen sense of empathy, working up to a theory of mind that can guide our understanding of another’s interiority and onward then through linguistic (and shell) communication to share our practical and intellectual thought, how this led to an intimate moment of sharing otherwise private mentations, or as we lovers say, a penny for your thoughts?

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