I would like to piece together a picture for a blog article (in essence) of what the state of the world was in the "hunter gatherer stage" just before the origin of agriculture. I would like to have a better understanding of the kind of language that could have existed say between 40 thousand years ago and 10 thousand years ago, roughly speaking.
This Timeline of prehistory says:
- ~120,000 years ago: possibly the earliest evidence of use of symbols etched onto bone.
- 28,000–24,000 years ago: oldest known pottery
- 20,000 years ago: Kebaran culture in the Levant. The Kebaran is the last Upper Paleolithic phase of the Levant. Kebaran stone tool assemblages are characterized by small, geometric microliths, and are thought to have lacked the specialized grinders and pounders found in later Near Eastern cultures. Small stone tools called microliths and retouched bladelets can be found for the first time. The microliths of this culture period differ greatly from the Aurignacian artifacts.
- 18,000 years ago: The Magdalenian culture appears in Europe. They are responsible for some of the most complex and famous artistic traditions of Ice Age Europe, creating the cave paintings of Lascaux and Altamira, as well as numerous carvings in ivory and stone.
- 18,000–12,000 years ago: Though estimations vary widely, it is believed by scholars that Afro-Asiatic was spoken as a single language around this time period.
So Afro-asiatic is the earliest I have so far found about theories of languages before proto-indo European, which is more around the 4000 BCE timeframe. So to have a full language by 18kya, that means that language generally might have occurred even earlier. What are the theories / research / resources on language evolution or the state of spoken language around or before this era?
From another angle, the vocal tract evolution angle, according to articles such as this (and others), the vocal tract might have been fully anatomically modern by 50kya, but I have seen people theorizing about producing sounds and such 100's of k years before that.
So while I am still going to have to invest a lot of time researching all the hundreds of cultures throughout the Levant and Europe (following the path out of Africa), I am curious what capabilities and possibilities in terms of spoken language existed in the time of the hunter gatherers of the Levant and northern Europe (I am English/Irish, so I am also mainly trying to better understand my ancestry). It sounds like the British area was only populated about 40kya:
The earliest evidence for modern humans in North West Europe is a jawbone discovered in England at Kents Cavern in 1927, which was re-dated in 2011 to between 41,000 and 44,000 years old.... The climatic deterioration which culminated in the Last Glacial Maximum, between about 26,500 and 19,000–20,000 years ago, drove humans out of Britain, and there is no evidence of occupation for around 18,000 years after c.33,000 years BP. Sites such as Cathole Cave in Swansea County dated at 14,500BP.
So it sounds like there was a gap, and then they returned to the area around 12kya. Then the agriculturalists from the Levant and other nearby areas migrated there around 10kya and merged with the society to make them eventually agriculturalist (ballpark).
This leads me to my main question:
What was the state of spoken language 40kya - 10kya? What do we know, what is hypothesized, what research should I look into?
If I may ask for more, I would like to also ask for sources I can look into on (perhaps in the comments):
- Vocal capability evolution.
- How language moved from Africa-ish northward, tracing how the "language technology" could have evolved (research and theories). I don't need to know every change and permutation of language, but I would like to know "yes, the hunter gatherers of northern europe probably spoke a language derived from the afro-asiatic languages and from the Levant" sort of thing, so I can better connect the dots.
Most research I've seen so far has a sharp cutoff at the proto-indo-European language, but it must extend far beyond that in the past. How far, I don't know, I would like to know.