What makes us human?

The following ten ideas have radically changed human development. Without them we would simply not be the same.

Accessibility icon What makes us human?


Storytelling may be the most important invention in human history. Our telling stories about our own experiences, feelings and ideas is part of the glue that keeps us together as a society. Stories also help us understand the past and prepare for the future.

Stories can be found everywhere: painted on cave walls, carved into old stone tablets, told from one generation to the next as song and dance. This is something not found in other animals. Humans have a unique quality – we can formulate our thoughts in words, which we can shuffle around and create something new with. Monkeys can learn sign language, but they can’t tell stories.

The longest sentence a chimpanzee named Nim was able to put together was: «Give me orange give me eat orange me eat orange give me eat you». Our ability to tell stories is what makes us different from other animals, and this is one of the secrets behind our success. It means we are able to pass on knowledge and culture from one person to another, from one place to another and from one generation to another.

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Humans have had musical instruments for as long as we have existed. Our bodies are biological instruments! Our speech organs act almost like guitar strings.

Our «voice box» is located in the lower part of our throat, and this means that our head and ribcage act as a resonating chamber – much like the body of a guitar.

Humans have been creating music for tens of thousands of years. The oldest instruments that have been found are 40,000-year-old bone flutes with finger holes and a V-shaped mouthpiece. The flutes are so complex that people must have experimented with simpler instruments before these were made. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that we will find these simpler instruments, because they were probably made from materials such as skin, reeds, wood or vegetables. Despite not knowing exactly when the first music was composed, there is no doubt that it has influenced our culture. Music brings people together and inspires us to share stories, feelings and thoughts.

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Tenåringsjente med øretelefoner
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