Re: Neanderthal "voice boxes"?

Dan Barnes (
Mon, 6 Jan 1997 18:11:32 GMT

In article <>, says...
> Without a context is a hyoid of any
>informative value?

Its been a bit since I read the papers but these papers all argue that it is of

Arensburg, B. & Tillier, A.-M. (1990) Le language des N€andertaliens. La
Recherch€. 21 (224). 1084-6.
Arensburg, B. & Tillier, A.-M. (1991) Speech and the Neanderthals. Endeavour.
15 (1). 26-8.
Arensburg, B., Tillier, A.-M., Vandermeersch, B., Duday, H., Schepartz, L.A. &
Rak, Y. (1989) A Middle Palaeolithic human hyoid bone. Nature. 338 (6218).
Arensburg, B., Schepartz, L.A., Tillier, A.-M., Vandermeersch, B., Duday, H. &
Rak, Y. (1990) A reappraisal of the anatomical basis for speech in Middle
Palaeolithic hominids. American Journal of Physical Anthropology. 83. 137-46.

There is also a paper in the AJPA (or YPA) by Schepartz analysising the
archaeological evidence for the presence of speech, e.g. art, use of bone, etc.
but I don't seem to have the ref to hand.

The first two (identical) articles have some good colour reconstructions of the
hyoid in place. However, even if the Neanderthal had a hyoid in the right positon
to then argue that they had complex speech would seem to be going beyond
what we can possibly infer - even if there was a definition of complex speech to
work with - do they mean future/past tense? I also think its very difficult to
interpret the level of language ability from the fossil record (as Schepartz has -
although the article is interesting). No one would deny that all hominids (along
with most animals) could communicate but to what level (even if the anatomy
allowed) is difficult to tell. We don't even know what the language our immediate
ancestors spoke was like before about 20 ka - although I've heard that
Cavalli-Sforza reckons the Basque language is the last remnant of anything
approaching the Cro-Magon tongue.