Our species, Homo sapiens, evolved in Africa around 300,000 years ago but did the first members of our species have minds like us, or were advanced cognition and language later developments?
It has long been argued that the modern mind emerged relatively suddenly sometime between 50,000 and 40,000 years ago, the time of the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition in Europe and the Near East. However, this view can no longer be supported. Instead, we have to look to the birthplace of our species, Africa.
Recent fieldwork in various parts of the continent has revealed many important discoveries that suggest we have been fully modern in mind as well as body for a very long time. Early modern humans in Africa are associated with Middle Stone Age (MSA) material culture, a prehistoric period that begins around 300,000 years ago and gives way to the Later Stone Age at various times in different areas, mainly between 50,000 and 20,000 years ago.
Although the MSA may not be as familiar as the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic of Europe, it deserves to be much more widely known and appreciated if we want to understand the emergence of the modern human mind.