December 22, 2013

Neandertals could talk

PLoS ONE 8(12): e82261. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0082261

Micro-Biomechanics of the Kebara 2 Hyoid and Its Implications for Speech in Neanderthals

Ruggero D’Anastasio et al.

The description of a Neanderthal hyoid from Kebara Cave (Israel) in 1989 fuelled scientific debate on the evolution of speech and complex language. Gross anatomy of the Kebara 2 hyoid differs little from that of modern humans. However, whether Homo neanderthalensis could use speech or complex language remains controversial. Similarity in overall shape does not necessarily demonstrate that the Kebara 2 hyoid was used in the same way as that of Homo sapiens. The mechanical performance of whole bones is partly controlled by internal trabecular geometries, regulated by bone-remodelling in response to the forces applied. Here we show that the Neanderthal and modern human hyoids also present very similar internal architectures and micro-biomechanical behaviours. Our study incorporates detailed analysis of histology, meticulous reconstruction of musculature, and computational biomechanical analysis with models incorporating internal micro-geometry. Because internal architecture reflects the loadings to which a bone is routinely subjected, our findings are consistent with a capacity for speech in the Neanderthals.

Link

3 comments:

terryt said...

"Because internal architecture reflects the loadings to which a bone is routinely subjected, our findings are consistent with a capacity for speech in the Neanderthals".

Surely no-one these days should find that in the least surprising.

Keith Minto said...

According to http://www.cog.brown.edu/people/lieberman/pdfFiles/Lieberman,%20P.%20&%20McCarthy,%20R.%202007.%20Tracking%20the%20evolution%20of.pdf the position of the Hyoid bone is important for phonation. It is a free floating bone so its position would be difficult to determine in a skeleton.

Function moulds form in bone architecture but I find the authors contradicting themselves...

" Similarity in overall shape does not necessarily demonstrate that the Kebara 2 hyoid was used in the same way as that of Homo sapiens....... Because internal architecture reflects the loadings to which a bone is routinely subjected, our findings are consistent with a capacity for speech in the Neanderthals."
Perhaps internal brain case moulding may better reflect speech.

Grognard said...

Nice to have it confirmed. I just wonder how far back speech goes. Since neanderthal had the speech genes, maybe a million years for all we know!