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Themes and actions

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First sea-crossings and the origin of language

  Contact person
Christophe COUPE , Jean-Marie HOMBERT

Scientific framework and objectives

In order to build theories and interpretations, researchers on the origins of language significantly rely on data from paleoanthropology and archaeology. These fields indeed offer traces, more or less erased, of the physiology and behaviours of our predecessors. These cues indirectly open the door to hypotheses regarding their communication system at different time periods during prehistory. In other words, looking for and carefully evaluating the relevance of such ‘cues of language’ is an important task to highlight the cognitive and communicative development of our ancestors.


We try to put forward a specific and potential cue of language, namely the first sea-crossings during prehistory in various regions of the world. To this end and through the partial reconstruction of our ancestors’ environment (variations in sea levels, tectonic movements), it appears relevant to better estimate the plausible conditions of crossing in terms of distance, visibility of target destinations and cognitive and communicative capacities.
More generally, our goal is to discuss the potential usefulness of considering sea-crossings in the vast debate focused on the evaluation of Homo sapiens and pre-sapiens’ cognitive and comunicative capacities.

  Financial support
  • OHLL


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