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What Did Our Ancestors Talk About?

What Did Our Ancestors Talk About?

Scientists found 23 words that are 15.000 years old

word, language, ancient, primal, history, society

What subjects were important for both modern humans and our ancestors? A new study into the Eurasian primal language offers some important clues. Researchers found 23 words that are approximately 15.000 years old. These suggests cavemen were talking about hands, hearing, pulling, spitting and worms.

Biologist Mark Pagel led the research team in reconstruncting the words and publishing the findings in this month’s Proceedings of the National Academicy of Sciences. The researchers compared existing lists of primal words of seven Eurasian languagefamilies with another list of words that are used most frequently in every day life.

They based their research on the earlier scientific finding that the lower the frequency of word use, the slower the word evolves. They hereby were able to select 23 subjects that people were already talking about in the end of the last ice age.

Here they are: thou, I, not, that, we, to give, who, this, what, man/male, ye, old, mother, to hear, hand, fire, to pull, black, to flow, bark, ashes, to spit and worm.

To learn more about the techniques of tracing ancient words, read our earlier post: New: a time machine for language.

Photo: Flickr, boardshots
Source: NRC Handelsblad,
Pagel, M., Atkinson, Q., S. Calude, A., & Meade, A. (2013). Ultraconserved words point to deep language ancestry across Eurasia Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1218726110

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