What Defines Us as Humans?

Topics: Human, Human evolution, Chimpanzee Pages: 5 (1709 words) Published: July 16, 2012
What defines us as humans?
Calling ourselves human is our way of categorizing ourselves as a superior species.  Although we are distinctly different, we should accept that we are in the same family as chimpanzees. Acknowledging that fact doesn't mean you are calling yourself a chimp. For example, a dog isn't a wolf even though they are from the same family. We are humans. What is it about our physical and behavioral traits that enable us to develop uniquely human capabilities? Traits like language, hunting skills, spiritual and ritual beliefs, bipedalism, and brain capacity The human language might not be universal among humans, but the physical traits that make language possible are universal. About 300,000 or more years ago, the basicranium started evolving to a more flexed or bent position. The basicranium is the floor of the brain's case. With the basicranium flexed, the larynx (voice box) is low in the neck so we can produce more speech sounds. The basicranium is an indicator of how well an animal can articulate sounds. Other evolutionary, corporeal indications are the position and shape of the hyoid bone that anchors muscles connected to the jaw, larynx, and tongue. The Broca's area of the brain controls these muscles as they function to produce speech sounds. These, and other, adaptations like breathing control, vertebral canals larer, tongue innervations and length of the pharynx are all physical characteristics of communication.  The evolution of language also enhanced human intelligence. Having the ability to communicate allowed for the uncomplicated transferring of complex ideas and allowed for teaching. Having the intelligence facilitated by language is a main quality that makes us human. When it comes to language chimpanzees, our closest living relatives communicate verbally using a variety of hoots, grunts, screams, pants, and other vocalizations. But, a majority of their communication is done through gestures and facial expressions. Chimps also lack the physical traits like the basicrania. Chimps feature a straighter base, unlike the flexed based in a human, which does not allow the larynx to be low in the neck, resulting in less speech ability.  Chimps also don’t display Broca’s area. Although they can communicate verbally, they do not have any defined language as far as we can determine.            Both humans and chimpanzees are able to modify their environment and to forge tools to help with daily challenges. Like humans, chimpanzees hunt for food. Chimps hunt in groups, mostly containing all males. Chimp attacks are more of a mobbing technique than a coordinated attack. Research shows that chimps might be using the surprise attack technique when they are deliberately hunting for food. Chimpanzees also use tools to aid in survival. They are known to make termite sticks, use stones as hammers and anvils, and mash leaves into a pulp to use as makeshift sponges. However, their tools and skills are nowhere the complexity of the human inventions.

With the help of language, humans evolved from gatherers and scavengers into skilled hunters. Communicative humans could strategize to improve their hunting skills and develop new hunting technology. Instead of using a stick to gather bugs like a chimpanzee, humans developed tools like the Atlatl. Homo sapiens developed group hunting strategies that allowed them to hunt large, medium, and small mammals, as well as fish and shellfish. As hunting more animals became possible, the stone hunting tools that were made by Homo sapiens also changed. The tools they made became more specialized, smaller, complex, and refined. These included composite stone tools such as fishhooks, harpoons, bows and arrows, throwing spears and sewing needles. Only humans can combine materials to create tools with different, specialized functions. As humans evolved they also began to have spiritual/ritual beliefs. This is evidenced by the burying of their dead, which often involved a...
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