I have a theory. And it is founded in a little research. But it also follows logic…so stick with me for a minute while I link some pieces together.
The theory is that Touch is the most ancient, most original language that we as a species communicated with. It is the language we had before there was organized verbal language.
Organized verbal language
If we think about the origination of organized language, we can see that written language appears somewhere around 3000-4000 BC (the Sumerian language). There are also some unidentified/untranslated written languages that date back to the 7th millennium BC… From this we could make estimations about when language became organized – one generous estimate is that organized verbal communication started to emerge around 40,000 years ago.
I get this estimate from the “theory of mind” as a requirement for the development of language (it includes the concepts of mind, consciousness, conscious communication, intentional persuasion and deception, and many more things).
But we’re much older than that
Yet even with this timeline, homo sapiens (that’s you and me) started to appear in the fossil records between 200,000 to 100,000 years ago. At the very lowest end of that scale we have about 60,000 years of human history without organized language. Yes, I’m sure that body language and certain mimicry of animal calls were used, but for more detailed communication, I would postulate that we used touch predominantly.
Why wouldn’t verbal communication have developed sooner?
Touch is something that we really cannot lie with. Words are used to deceive all the time and many scholars anticipate that this is why we didn’t develop a system of language much earlier – because it’s far easier to lie to others with words than it is with touch. As Simon Sinek says, you wouldn’t sign a business deal with someone who won’t shake your hand. Not because the deal is bad, but there’s an innate sense of being able to trust people more if they shake your hand – because whether consciously or not, you’ll instantly get the “vibe” of a person when you make physical contact.
To put my final point onto this theory, here’s one more fact (nicely researched). Out of our regular five senses: sight, smell, hearing, touch and taste – the very first one to develop in the foetus is that of touch. Clearly evolution has placed primary importance on this sense for it to be the earliest sense developed as we form. A somber extension of this is that babies have an enormously difficult time surviving if they do not have a sense of touch (yet many survive without the other senses).
This means that we all have a hidden textbook of touch within our biology. All the information is there. We just need to remember how to read that manual, how to translate the information so that we can use it. And that’s really what we do in trainings and workshops – start to translate the most ancient language we have into something that we can use to great effect and with great skill.
If you’re not sure where to start, check out a previous blog, called “developing fluency in the language of touch“.
Good luck. We have a lot of work to do together.