Neanderthal speech

Glenn Morton (
Tue, 28 Apr 1998 07:09:37 -0500

There is a report in today's New York Times entitled "New findings suggest Neanderthals Had Gift of Speech". It can be found at

The article reports a study of the nerves going to the tongue. They studied the hypoglossal canals of apes, australopithecines, archaic Homo sapiens, Neanderthal, and modern man, and found that by the time one gets to Kabwe man, 400 kyr ago, the hypoglossal canal was modern in size.

While the article does not go into this, one thought which occurs to me is that Kabwe was most likely not the first person with language. Language may have been gradually different the further one goes back. This would take the view that language, the usefulness of language, acted to produce strong selection pressure on better speakers, thus acting to select for individuals with larger hypoglossal canals.

I would say that this study strongly supports what I have been contending for the past few years, that spiritual mankind has been on this planet for a long, long time. This study would also weaken support for views which place the origin of spiritual man and thus language, at either 40 kyr or 100 kyr ago. This also weakens the concept that the image of God somehow resides in the anatomically modern human form. Someone who looked quite a bit different from us, 400 kyr ago apparently had the nerves for speech.