A vocal expert working with the BBC suggests that Neanderthal vocalizations may have sounded less like low grunts and more like high-pitched shrieks. While examining the first full skeleton of a Neanderthal ever to be discovered, a team of scientists created physical and virtual models that put substance on top of the bones.
Patsy Rodenburg has dedicated her career to understanding and exploring the sounds we make. She has been a vocal coach for Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, Nicole Kidman, and Daniel Day-Lewis. But in this video she’s doing something a little different: deducing what a short, squat man with a hyoid bone (like homo sapiens) and a large nasal cavity might sound like. To create the noise she looked at the structure of the skull and recreated models of its throat.
Working from the skeletal remains the scientists extrapolated measurements and estimates of the Neanderthals’ abilities and traits. They also created a model of a Neanderthal throat and showed it, along with the skeleton, to Rodenburg.The hyoid is a small horseshoe-shaped structure in the throat that supports the root of the tongue. In humans, its placement is a large part of what gives us the ability to speak, and the same appears to be true for the Neanderthals.
And it’s not at all how you’d imagine it!
Interesting short video from BBC show ‘Neanderthal: The Rebirth’.