A new study has found that Neanderthals possessed the ability to hear and produce speech in a way that closely resembles modern-day humans.
Researchers used high-resolution CT scans to compare virtual 3D models of the ear structures in Homo sapiens and Neanderthals to make the discovery.
With these models, they could determine the range of sounds that Neanderthals could hear, and thus probably produce as speech.
The fossils were taken from Atapuerca, near Burgos in northern Spain, where the earliest evidence of humans in Western Europe has been found.
The presence of similar hearing abilities demonstrates that the Neanderthals possessed a communication system that was as complex and efficient as modern human speech.
The notion that Neanderthals were much more primitive than modern humans is outdated as in recent years evidence demonstrates that they were much more intelligent than we once assumed.
Neanderthals would have been capable of producing words that modern-day humans use, such as “hello” or “ok”, if those words had had any meaning to them.
The new study suggested Neanderthal speech likely included an increased use of consonants. Previous work in this area focused on Neanderthals’ capacity to produce vowel sounds.
Neanderthals are an extinct species or subspecies of archaic humans who lived in Eurasia until about 40,000 years ago.
They most likely went extinct due to great climatic change, disease, or a combination of these factors.
The name Neanderthal derives from the Neander Valley in Germany, where the fossils were first found.
Neanderthals lived before and during the last ice age of the Pleistocene in some of the most challenging environment ever inhabited by humans.
They developed a successful culture, with a complex stone tool technology, that was based on hunting, with some scavenging and local plant collection.