Early Man Can Talk. Change My Mind

Early Man Can Talk. Change My Mind

In Natural Selection, Book 3 of the trilogy Dawn of Humanity and the sixth book in the Man vs. Nature series, the characters communicate often but rarely with voices. Instead, they mostly rely on hand gestures, body movements, and facial expressions. Some would say this meant they were primitive, unable to fully share thoughts, but it showed they had adapted to a dangerous environment where unusual sounds were the enemy. Here’s why.

I’ll be honest. How well early man could share thoughts is not settled science. No one questions their ability to hiss, squeak, howl, and bark in some early approximation of speech. The difference in opinions comes from whether the physiology of their evolving brain allowed for the sophisticated speech used by modern humans, one filled with verbs, nouns, and symbolism. The mushy, tissue-y brain doesn’t preserve decades much less 2 million years. Nor does the floating ‘hyoid’ bone in the throat that is critical to speech.

Even if that weren’t the case, why would they want to be noisy communicators when non-voice methods provided everything required for their daily existence. Their world was treacherous. Why would our ancestors, already poorly defended by weak claws, flat teeth, small size, and thin skin choose to “talk” with unnatural sounds when they were surrounded by predators who would like nothing better than to eat them? Logically, wouldn’t they choose something quieter and more functional? Have you been around someone who doesn’t speak your language yet the two of you communicate via hand gestures, body movements, and facial expressions? Think of American Sign Language and its sister non-spoken languages throughout the world. Once you learn this system of body movements, everything is said without words. No one misses anything.

Here’s what I think: Early man like my character Lucy and her tribe communicated ideas well without voices by using body language.

What are your experiences with communicating without voice? Share your stories with readers in the comments.


 In this conclusion to Lucy’s journey, she and her tribe leave their good home to rescue former-tribemembers captured by the enemy. Lucy’s tribe includes a mix of species–a Canis, a Homotherium, and different iterations of early man. In this book, more join and some die, but that is the nature of prehistoric life, where survival depends on a combination of our developing intellect and our inexhaustible will to live. Each species brings unique skills to this task. Based on true events.

 Set 1.8 million years ago in Africa, Lucy and her tribe struggle against the harsh reality of a world ruled by nature, where predators stalk them and a violent new species of man threatens to destroy their world. Only by changing can they prevail. If you ever wondered how earliest man survived but couldn’t get through the academic discussions, this book is for you. Prepare to see this violent and beautiful world in a way you never imagined.

 A perfect book for fans of Jean Auel and the Gears!

 Book information:

 Title and author: Natural Selection by Jacqui Murray

Series: Book 3 in the Dawn of Humanity series

Genre: Prehistoric fiction

Editor: Anneli Purchase

Available print or digital) at: http://a-fwd.com/asin=B0B9KPM5BW

 Author bio:

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular prehistoric fiction saga, Man vs. Nature which explores seminal events in man’s evolution one trilogy at a time. She is also author of the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers and Building a Midshipman , the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. Her non-fiction includes over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, reviews as an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics.

 Social Media contacts:

 Amazon Author Page:         https://www.amazon.com/Jacqui-Murray/e/B002E78CQQ/

Blog:                                        https://worddreams.wordpress.com

Instagram:                              https://www.instagram.com/jacquimurraywriter/

Pinterest:                                http://pinterest.com/askatechteacher

Twitter:                                    http://twitter.com/worddreams

Website:                                 https://jacquimurray.net

 Book trailer: https://youtu.be/jZhlvou9hvg












Chapter 1

One Pack Ends, Another Begins


The Canis’ packmates were all dead, each crumpled in a smeared puddle of blood, Upright killing sticks embedded where they should never be. His body shook, but he remembered his training. The killers’ scent filled the air. If they saw him—heard him—they would come for him, too, and he must survive. He was the last of his pack.

He padded quietly through the bodies, paused at his mate, broken, eyes open, tongue out, pup under her chest, his head crushed. A moan slipped from his muzzle and spread around him. He swallowed what remained in his mouth. Without a pack, silence was his only protection. He knew to be quiet, but today, now, failed.

To his horror, a departing Upright looked back, face covered in Canis blood, meaty shreds dripping from his mouth, the body of a dead pup slung over his shoulder. The Canis sank into the brittle grass and froze. The Upright scanned the massacre, saw the Canis’ lifeless body, thought him dead like the rest of the decimated pack. Satisfied, he turned away and rushed after his departing tribe. The Canis waited until the Upright was out of sight before cautiously rising and backing away from the onslaught, eyes on the vanished predators in case they changed their minds.

And fell.

He had planned to descend into the gully behind him. Sun’s shadows were already covering it in darkness which would hide him for the night, but he had gauged his position wrong. Suddenly, earth disappeared beneath his huge paws. He tried to scrabble to solid ground, but his weight and size worked against him and he tumbled down the steep slope. The loose gravel made gripping impossible, but he dug his claws in anyway, whining once when his shoulder slammed into a rock, and again when his head bounced off a tree stump. Pain tore through his ear as flesh ripped, dangling in shreds as it slapped the ground. He kept his legs as close as possible to his body and head tucked, thankful this hill ended in a flat field, not a river.

Or a cliff.

When it finally leveled out, he scrambled to his paws, managed to ignore the white-hot spikes shrieking through his head as he spread his legs wide. Blood wafted across his muzzle. He didn’t realize it was his until the tart globs dripped down his face and plopped to the ground beneath his quaking chest. The injured animal odor, raw flesh and fresh blood, drew predators. In a pack, his mate would purge it by licking the wound. She would pronounce him Ragged-ear, the survivor.

Ragged-ear is a strong name. A good one.

He panted, tail sweeping side to side, and his indomitable spirit re-emerged.

I live.

But no one else in his pack did.

Except, maybe, the female called White-streak. She often traveled alone, even when told not to. If she was away during the raid, she may have escaped. He would find her. Together, they would start over.

Ragged-ear shook, dislodging the grit and twigs from his now-grungy fur. That done, he sniffed out White-streak’s odor, discovered she had also descended here. His injuries forced him to limp and blood dripping from his tattered ear obstructed his sight. He stumbled trying to leap over a crack and fell into the fissure. Fire shot through his shoulder, exploded up his neck and down his chest. Normally, that jump was easy. He clambered up its crumbling far wall, breaking several of his yellowed claws.

All of that he ignored because it didn’t matter to his goal.

Daylight came and went as he followed White-streak, out of a forest onto dry savannah that was nothing like his homeland.

Why did she go here?

He embraced the tenderness that pulsed throughout his usually-limber body. It kept him angry and that made him vicious. He picked his way across streams stepping carefully on smooth stones, their damp surfaces slippery from the recent heavy rain, ignoring whoever hammered with a sharp rock inside his head. His thinking was fuzzy, but he didn’t slow. Survival was more important than comfort, or rest.

Ragged-ear stopped abruptly, nose up, sniffing. What had alerted him? Chest pounding, breathing shallow, he studied the forest that blocked his path, seeking anything that shouldn’t be there.

But the throbbing in his head made him miss Megantereon.

Ragged-ear padded forward, slowly, toward the first tree, leaving only the lightest of trails, the voice of Mother in his head.

Yes, your fur color matches the dry stalks, but the grass sways when you move. That gives away your location so always pay attention.

His hackles stiffened and he snarled, out of instinct, not because he saw Megantereon. Its shadowy hiding place was too dark for Ragged-ear’s still-fuzzy thinking. The She-cat should have waited for Ragged-ear to come closer, but she was hungry, or eager, or some other reason, and sprang. Her distance gave the Canis time to back pedal, protecting his soft underbelly from her attack. Ragged-ear was expert at escaping, but his stomach spasmed and he lurched to a stop with a yowl of pain. Megantereon’s next leap would land her on Ragged-ear, but to the Canis’ surprise, the She-cat staggered to a stop, and then howled.

While she had been stalking Ragged-ear, a giant Snake had been stalking her. When she prepared her death leap, Snake dropped to her back and began to wrap itself around her chest. With massive coils the size of Megantereon’s leg, trying to squirm away did no good.

Ragged-ear tried to run, but his legs buckled. Megantereon didn’t care because she now fought a rival that always won. The She-cat’s wails grew softer and then silent. Ragged-ear tasted her death as he dragged himself into a hole at the base of an old tree, as far as possible from scavengers who would be drawn to the feast.


He awoke with Sun’s light, tried to stand, but his legs again folded. Ragged-ear remained in the hole, eyes closed, curled around himself to protect his vulnerable stomach, his tail tickling his nose, comforting.

He survived the Upright’s assault because they deemed him dead. He would not allow them to be right.


Sun came and went. Ragged-ear consumed anything he could find, even eggs, offal, and long-dead carcasses his pack normally avoided. His legs improved until he could chase rats, fat round ground birds, and moles, a welcome addition to his diet. Sometimes, he vomited what he ate and swallowed it again. The day came he once again set out after what remained of his pack, his pace more sluggish than prior to the attack, but quick enough for safety.

Ragged-ear picked up the female’s scent again and tracked her to another den. He slept there for the night and repeated his hunt the next day and the next. When he couldn’t find her trace, instinct drove him and memories of the dying howls of his pack, from the adults who trusted their Alpha Ragged-ear to protect them to the whelps who didn’t understand the presence of evil in their bright world.

Everywhere he traveled, when he crossed paths with an Upright, it was their final battle.


Grace Allison
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20 thoughts on “Early Man Can Talk. Change My Mind”

  1. I’ve often wondered about the speech parts of Jacqui’s novels, but since we don’t know for sure how much early man spoke, I accepted that somehow they were able to make themselves understood, and also, for the sake of the novel, I accepted some poetic licence in the communications the author used in order to make the story flow.
    The article, “Early Man Can Talk” makes perfect sense to me.
    Great novel series. Don’t miss out.

    • Thanks, Anneli. It’s one of the topics brought up most often in critique groups–could they really talk?? My next trilogy is still not settled science but set only 75,000 years ago. The species of man back then were almost us so I think whatever I decide about voices will be easier to believe.

  2. Amazon Customer Review
    grace the mystic
    5.0 out of 5 stars Survival of the Fittest
    Reviewed in the United States on November 25, 2022
    Verified Purchase
    In this latest edition, Natural Selection Lucy leads her group further south through Africa’s dangerous wild. I loved how each member has not only a name but a smell. The sense of smell in the tribe reminds me of how animals in our time use scent. Lucy learns to listen to the wind to find water or game to kill. Each person in the tribe must learn skills to help the group. The spear is important in this book as Lucy and her group train to kill not only game to eat but defend against their enemies. Lucy is also a respected healer even among a tribe who wants her as their slave. Those who want her as a slave have taken members of Lucy’s tribe. Lucy creates a clever plan to rescue her tribe members. The survival of the fittest is the theme in this book. Woven in the story are two large Canis animals, dogs I assume who were separated early at birth. The Canis journey of finding their mate is touching.

  3. Body language is indeed a powerful tool of communication and it certainly is something to think about in that early men did not have language as we know it yet. It changes so many dynamics in an interesting way! <3

  4. Sign language is pretty effective for communicating, Jacqui, so I’m with you on this one. When I worked with little pre-verbal toddlers and kids with speech disabilities, we taught them sign language. It’s amazing how they could suddenly express their needs. A great book that reflects some fascinating research. Congrats on another wonderful tour stop and thanks for hosting, Grace.

  5. Hello, this is certainly an interesting question and it makes sense that early man spoke less and used more sign language and gestures.

  6. Hello,Jacqui. What is your estimate of the average lifespan of the early humans who made it past infancy?

    • Neanderthals lived on average less than 40 years. I suspect earlier species were no longer living though I’ve seen no data on them. Those were tough times on humans!

  7. Jacqui’s explanation of early humans’ communication method makes a lot of sense to me. And of course, there are many other ways to communicate than spoken language.

  8. Miscommunication is an issue for us humans when we can speak. I wonder if it would be worse or better with hand gestures. I was especially thinking of the expression most husbands get on their faces when the wife says, “Honey, we need to talk.?

  9. Fascinating excerpt.
    Re. the question…I have always assumed that early man could communicate but did not delve deep enough to think about the method. It is an interesting angle and now also makes me curious how you might have conveyed their non-verbal communication in your book.

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