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Neanderthals Used To Speak Like Modern Humans, Study Suggests

Update Date: Dec 21, 2013 04:17 PM EST

An extensive analysis of Neanderthal’s fossilized hyoid bone,found in neck, has hinted towards the species’ speaking ability.

Neanderthal’s speaking ability has been suspected ever since the first hyoid was discovered in 1989. The recent study proves it through computer modeling and illustrated exactly how the bone was used in speaking, similar to modern human.

The hyoid bone supports the root of the tongue and hence plays an important role in speaking.

Using 3D x-ray imaging and mechanical modeling, the team of researchers analyzed the fossil Neanderthal throat bone. They observed how the hyoid behaved in relation to the other surrounding bones.

“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,” said Stephen Wroe, from the University of New England, Armidale, NSW, Australia, to BBC.

“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.”

It was earlier believed that the complex language did not evolve until about 100,000 years ago and we, the modern humans were the only ones who were capable of understanding the complex speech. However, the notion was refreshed by the discovery of Neanderthal hyoid bone in 1989.

“We were very careful not to suggest that we had proven anything beyond doubt, but I do think it will help to convince a good number of specialists and tip the weight of opinion,” added Prof Wroe.

The study is published in Plos One journal.

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