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Fossil throat bone suggests Neanderthals had power of speech
by Staff Writers
Kensington, Australia (UPI) Dec 20, 2013

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only

An analysis of a fossil bone suggests Neanderthals may have had the ability to speak, an Australian researcher says.

Stephen Wroe of the University of New South Wales, working with an international team, says the researchers were able to determine how the Hyoid bone -- a horseshoe shaped structure in the neck -- worked in Neanderthals.

Wroe said the findings are "highly suggestive" of complex speech in Neanderthals.

The hyoid bone is crucial for speech, as it supports the root of the tongue. Non-human primates cannot vocalize as humans do because the hyoid bones are not placed in the right position.

The researchers said analysis of a fossil Neanderthal throat bone using 3-D X-ray imaging and mechanical modeling allowed them to see how it worked in relation to other surrounding bones.

"We would argue that this is a very significant step forward," Wroe told the BBC. "It shows that the [analyzed] hyoid doesn't just look like those of modern humans -- it was used in a very similar way."

Many scientists have held that complex language only evolved about 100,000 years ago and only modern humans were capable of vocalizing complex speech.

"Many would argue that our capacity for speech and language is among the most fundamental of characteristics that makes us human," Wroe said. "If Neanderthals also had language then they were truly human too."


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Sunlight adaptation of Neanderthal genome found in 65 percent of modern East Asians
Oxford, UK (SPX) Dec 20, 2013
With the Neanderthal genome now published, for the first time, scientists have a rich new resource of comparative evolution. For example, recently, scientists have shown that humans and Neanderthals once interbreed, with the accumulation of elements of Neanderthal DNA found in up to 5 percent in modern humans. Are there any advantages to the retention of Neanderthal DNA that favors modern ... read more

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