Were Neanderthals opera singers?

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Were Neanderthals opera singers?

Is it April 1st already?
This is really interesting, so much for cavemen grunts bashing rocks together...


NEANDERTHALS have been misunderstood. The early humanoids traditionally characterised as ape-like brutes were deeply emotional beings with high-pitched voices. They may even have sung to each other, writes Jonathan Leake.

The new image has emerged from two studies of the vocal apparatus and anatomy of the creatures that occupied Europe between 200,000 and 35,000 years ago.

Neanderthal voices were loud, womanly and probably highly melodic not the roars and grunts previously assumed by most researchers. Stephen Mithen, professor of archeology at Reading University and author of one of the studies, said:
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What is emerging is a picture of an intelligent and emotionally complex creature whose most likely form of communication would have been part language and part song

Mithen is giving a seminar on his findings at University College London next week and will publish a book, The Singing Neanderthal: The Origin of Language, Music, Body and Mind, in June.

He studied the Neanderthal voice box and compared it with those of modern humans, monkeys and apes to work out what noises they might have made.
... Quote:
They must have been able to communicate complex ideas and even spirituality. Their anatomy suggests that pitch and melody would have played a key role

Mithens work coincides with the first detailed study of a reconstructed Neanderthal skeleton. Anthropologists at the American Museum of Natural History in New York brought together bones and casts from several sites to re-create the creature.

Gary Sawyer, the researcher who oversaw the project, will describe the results in Horizon on BBC2 on February 10. The creature that emerges bears marked differences to humans. Neanderthals seem to have had an extremely powerful build and no discernible waist.

Professor Trenton Holliday of Tulane University in New Orleans believes they evolved their stocky body shapes to conserve heat when ice covered the world.

A short compact body with a voluminous chest would retain heat better in a cold environment he said.
By netchicken: posted on 1-2-2005

Your link isn't working, NC. :)

It's been 'known' for some time that Neanderthals were emotionally complex and intelligent. They buried their dead, took care of the lame, and apparently enjoyed decorating themselves. They were expert flint knappers, as well.

Anyway, this isn't really surprising given the fossil evidence and subsequent theorizing regarding that evidence and the development of language in Hominids.

From what I've read (extensive amounts), most agree that Neanderthals had rudimentary language skills, perhaps even close to our own. There's really no other explanation for their contruction of elaborate tools and the hunting of large game, which requires strategy and cooperation, which also requires some form of language.

A while back they discovered a hyoid bone from a Neanderthal (the hyoid bone supports the laraynx) and it was actually identical to the hyoid bone of a human, it's also been said by many that the tongue was just as dexterous as that of the later Homo spaiens, and this indicates frequent, as well as fluent speech. Even more recently the width of the Neanderthal hypoglossal canal, which carries the nerves that control the tongue through the base of the skull) were discovered to lie within the range of modern homo sapiens.

Take from it what you will, I guess we'll never know exactly when modern language came to be, but these are good ways to start the search for those interested.

Up To Homo Neanderthalensis, the breathing apparatus in Homo Erectus, fpr instance, was not suitable for modern language. Aspiration could not be controlled, so the sounds of primitive language (and it's generally agreed that there was a very basic language) consisted of short, perhaps meaningful utterances. Long complicated utterances, as we know them, were anatomically impossible.

Anyway, as for the pitch of the Neanderthals voice.. I'm looking forward to reading this new information. It sounds really interesting, and the thought that they may have high pitched voices and also song in both entertaining and plausible from what I know already.
By parrhesia: posted on 1-2-2005

Thanks camel, that was interesting to read.
Based on that how can we assume they didn't have speach like modern humans? It seems a bit arrogent on our part to deny them that aspect.

The link doesn't work here cause it has two ,, in it. You need to copy and paste it to a new window.
By netchicken: posted on 1-2-2005

it's arrogant indeed.

I think it becomes a philosophical issue, when both sides present compelling evidence, and in the end your choice depends on how special you think humans are, or want them to be.

I agree with Thomas Kuhn in this respect: He wrote that people don't side with theories based on the evidence, but perhaps their own personal inclinations, such as what I mentioned above.
Admitting or accepting that Homo Erectus had at least very very simple language skills and Homo Neanderthalensis had perhaps complex language skills not unlike our own totally diminishes the pedastal we humans have put ourselves on.

We are the only ones now, but perhaps it wasn't always that way.

There's also really interesting results from linguistic work with the Great Apes. Koko the gorilla comes to mind, as does Bruno the chimp.
Bruno was taught American sign language for a period, and was then moved to a medical facility. Even after his removal he used the sign language to try and communicate with the people around him. It compelled them to learn the language so they could communicate with him.

Then there's Kanzi the Bonobo.. who displayed creative and impulsive use of language, even had an understanding of English voice commands, questions to which he would respond using sign language. Kanzo differs from other apes, who may have been conditioned to respond. He was spontaneous and creative.

Are we special? Are just lucky?
By parrhesia: posted on 1-2-2005

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