Introduction (Encyclopedia of the Ancient World)
Language is a defining capability of Homo sapiens. It and human culture evolved together, a process that began, most scientists believe, 100,000 to 200,000 years ago. The prehistoric world saw the development of complex language and its ability to transmit information from one generation to the next. These oral traditions long preserved the knowledge of bands of primitive humans and, later, tribes, chiefdoms, and nations. The beginnings of writing about 5,500 years ago and its triumphant dissemination through much of the world before 700 c.e. freed human culture from dependency on fragile oral transmission. Literature, which could safeguard information long beyond a single generation’s or even a nation’s existence, inaugurated an entirely new, fundamental feature of culture: history.
(The entire section is 117 words.)
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