Saturday, 21 December 2013

Neanderthals could speak like modern humans, study suggests

Reconstructed face of a Neanderthal hominid
An analysis of a Neanderthal's fossilised hyoid bone - a horseshoe-shaped structure in the neck - suggests the species had the ability to speak.
This has been suspected since the 1989 discovery of a Neanderthal hyoid that looks just like a modern human's.
But now computer modelling of how it works has shown this bone was also used in a very similar way.
Writing in journal Plos One, scientists say its study is "highly suggestive" of complex speech in Neanderthals.

Start Quote

If Neanderthals also had language then they were truly human, too”
Prof Stephen Wroe University of New England, Armidale, NSW, Australia
The hyoid bone is crucial for speaking as it supports the root of the tongue. In non-human primates, it is not placed in the right position to vocalise like humans.
An international team of researchers analysed a fossil Neanderthal throat bone using 3D x-ray imaging and mechanical modelling.
This model allowed the group to see how the hyoid behaved in relation to the other surrounding bones.
Stephen Wroe, from the University of New England, Armidale, NSW, Australia, said: "We would argue that this is a very significant step forward. It shows that the Kebara 2 hyoid doesn't just look like those of modern humans - it was used in a very similar way."
He told BBC News that it not only changed our understanding of Neanderthals, but also of ourselves.
"Many would argue that our capacity for speech and language is among the most fundamental of characteristics that make us human. If Neanderthals also had language then they were truly human, too."read more

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