Assuming the current model of human evolution to be correct, approximately when did the earliest ancestor of humans live, who was intelligent enough, that if raised from a young enough age, could learn the necessary skills to live in today's society:

  • learn a modern language
  • learn to read and write
  • learn to use most common tools and household items
  • learn to drive a car, use a telephone, a computer, have an average job.
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    $\begingroup$ Interesting question but I doubt it can be answered conclusively, we just don't have the necessary data. Also bear in mind that chimps can do all (or at least most) of the above. $\endgroup$
    – terdon
    Jul 19, 2013 at 18:43
  • $\begingroup$ @terdon : of course, it is impossible to give an exact date, but I was asking it in terms of orders of magnitude. (5k years? 50k years? 500k years?) And chimps definitely don't fit, not just because they are not the ancestors of humans, but because they can't learn the above skills. Learning it as a circus trick does not count. You can teach a bear to drive a bicycle, that does not mean it will have the skills to live in and integrate into human society. $\endgroup$
    – vsz
    Jul 19, 2013 at 19:48
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    $\begingroup$ That's exactly my point, how can you define what is a "circus trick" and what is not? Short of trying this with a real hominid, I don't see how this question could be answered. You could assume that a certain hominid would have been able to do some of these things but you can't know. Perhaps a better question would be which was the first hominid to show a society whose complexity is comparable to ours. $\endgroup$
    – terdon
    Jul 19, 2013 at 20:46
  • $\begingroup$ Some of your bullet points are already challenging for many Homo sapiens sapiens. ;) $\endgroup$
    – Beo
    Apr 11, 2014 at 16:25

2 Answers 2


Interesting question.

The organism would have to be monogamous, that's for sure, otherwise it would be too competitive and it would be a beast - as chimps are. Chimps couldn't integrate into the modern society.

So, monogamy is the prime prerequisite as it's also prerequisite for intelligence. Bipedalism is another obvious prerequisite, as you need an organism with fine motorics of front limbs - and fingers.

For "modern language" you need high intelligence and the ability of abstract thinking. Same goes for reading and writing.

Humans split from great apes between 8 and 4 million years ago. Problem here is that every new piece of fossil of a human ancestor is classified as a new species, so there's very little we're certain of. I'd say the first organism capable of doing the above things existed around 200.000 years ago. Either homo erectus or, more likely, a Neanderthal.


Well... given than mitochondria eve was around 99–148 thousand years ago https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitochondrial_Eve The human species is at least that old.

So a human baby from 148 000 years ago likely could learn to do all the things listed.

Could Neanderthal do all those things... Well Neanderthal are not an ancestor species.. more like a cousin species (separation by 500,000-700,000). And from hyoid bone... appears to be able to speak like modern humans do.


So probably yes.. on mastering modern language.

Reading and writing.. well no idea. But then again there are no examples of humans writing older than 3200BC. And the human species is at least 150 000 year old.

However Neanderthals do have a reduced semicircular canals compared to humans. An almost defining feature of Neanderthals.... so Neanderthal were probably less graceful in 3d space... so probably no gymnastic and kungfu for neanderthal.

Homo erectus... well they have high larynx.. limiting the sounds the they could make. The position is approximate that of a human 2 year old.

The other things on your list... no answer can be given.


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