- 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: "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. "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," he said.
- Mithen's 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.
- Copyright 2005 Times Newspapers Ltd.