Researchers believe that stone-age humans developed language skills around the same as tool-making skills, according to a report in the Guardian.
Both activities require complex thought and it is believed the evolution of tool-making skills helped develop the brain enough to use language. From the article:
Brain scans of modern stone-tool makers show that key areas in the brain’s right hemisphere become more active when they switch from making stone flakes to more advanced tools. Intriguingly, some of these brain regions are involved in language processing.
“The advance from crude stone tools to elegant handheld axes was a massive technological leap for our early human ancestors. Handheld axes were a more useful tool for defence, hunting and routine work,” said [neuroscientist Dr Aldo] Faisal, whose study appears in the journal PLoS ONE. “Our study reinforces the idea that toolmaking and language evolved together as both required more complex thought, making the end of the lower paleolithic a pivotal time in our history. After this period, early humans left Africa and began to colonise other parts of the world.”
The results could be used to develop tools for older people when their physical function declines. Perhaps the researchers will also discover more about how our language abilities developed also.