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Am J Phys Anthropol. 1990 Oct;83(2):137-46.

A reappraisal of the anatomical basis for speech in Middle Palaeolithic hominids.

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Department of Anatomy and Anthropology, Sackler Medical School, Tel Aviv University, Israel.


The recovery of a fossil hominid skeleton with a complete hyoid bone from Mousterian deposits in Kebara Cave, Israel, provides new evidence pertaining to the evolution of speech. Previous studies of speech in the Middle Palaeolithic (most notably those on Neandertals) have focused on the basicranium as an indicator of speech capabilities. This work critiques the use of the basicranium and instead presents the anatomical relations of the hyoid and adjacent structures in living humans as a basis for understanding the form of the vocal tract. The size and morphology of the hyoid from Kebara and its relations to other anatomical components are almost identical to those in modern humans, suggesting that Middle Palaeolithic populations were anatomically capable of fully modern speech.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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