Re: Archaic H. sapiens???

Michael McBroom (
Thu, 02 Jan 1997 09:32:34 -0500

Al Curtis wrote:

> I asked this question in a recent post but got no responses. Just what
> distinguishes archaic H. sapiens from H. erectus (besides brain size)
> and were they actually slightly more evolved H. erecti? Who decided
> that they were in fact sapiens? The term "archaic" H. sapiens seems
> rather vague to me. Thanks in advance

Until recently, I'd had the same questions. As other responses to your
question will show, archaic H.s. are generally grouped into a catch-all
category because they don't quite fit anywhere else.

I'm a student of linguistics whose specialty is the biological origins
of language. Recently, in my research, I came across some information
that casts a new light (to me, at least -- the information is not new)
on at least some of the archaic specimens. While the exterior
appearance to an archaic skull may resemble a large-brained H erectus in
some ways, or a Neanderthal without the protruding face in others, the
most telling difference is in an area that is not so obvious: the
basicranial area. Reconstructions of the vocal tract done by Philip
Lieberman (see his book, _On the Origins of Language_, 1975 -- a little
old, but still one of the best resources on the subject) indicate that
some archaic specimens had vocal tracts that were essentially modern in
appearance, in sharp contrast to the vocal tracts of H.e. and
Neanderthal. This characteristic is highly significant, since it is
most likely an indicator of the beginnings of true, full-blown language
in the genus. When looked at from that perspective, these specimens are
entirely deserving of their H.s. categorization. IMHO.


Michael McBroom
CSUF Linguistics