Tool‐dependent foraging strategies and the origin of language

Kathleen R. Gibson

in The Oxford Handbook of Language Evolution

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199541119
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

Tool‐dependent foraging strategies and the origin of language


Human tool-dependent foraging strategies enable humans to exploit a much wider range of environments, live in larger social groups at increased population densities, reproduce at shorter intervals, and have expanded lifespans and brain size. Language is integral to human tool-dependent foraging. Humans share information about locations of natural resources needed to make tools and about the physical properties and appropriate treatment of technical materials. Foragers also share information acquired during hunting and gathering expeditions. Hominin ancestors embarked upon new non-ape-like foraging strategies by at least 2.6–3 mya. This included crushing bones to obtain marrow, using sharp-edged stone flakes to cut meat from bones, and, possibly, exploiting underground plant storage organs. Hominins began using fire to cook, and containers to gather and transport food to home bases at some point. They also mastered new social foraging strategies, including male-female food-sharing bonds, and parental and grandparental provisioning of the young. Hominins were using spears and hunting big game by 400 kya. Modern humans were charting lunar cycles and predicting tidal fluctuations by 164 kya, in South Africa, in order to improve the efficiency and safety of shellfish collection. Europeans were predicting and exploiting seasonal migrations of fish and mammals by upper palaeolithic times.

Keywords: human tool-dependent foraging strategies; hominins; modern humans; upper palaeolithics

Article.  1054 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Language Evolution

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