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Clues to man’s first words

23 June 2004

BURGOS – Spanish experts may have discovered how modern man first started to talk, according to research published Wednesday.

Early hominids, who lived in Atapuerca in north-central Spain some 350,000 years ago, emitted sounds similar to those of modern man, according to a member of the excavations team.

Hominids were an animal of the family comprising man and his ancestors.

Early hominids, whose remains were discovered in Atapuerca, belonged to the homo heidelbergensis species.

“There’s a close relationship between what a particular species is able to hear and what it is able to emit,” Juan Luis Arsuaga told EFE news agency.

“The reconstruction of the outer and middle ear on fossils discovered in Atapuerca indicates that early hominids possessed an auditory sensibility similar to that of modern humans.”

According to the study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, the frequency range of Homo heidelbergensis’ hearing was between two and four kilohertz, while chimpanzees’ ears are primarily attuned to sounds peaking at either one or eight kilohertz.

The auditory frequency of early humans is very similar to that of modern humans, “which together with their cranial capacity proves, in our judgment, that early humans communicated in a manner very similar to modern man,” Arsuaga explained.

Additional research to be carried out by the team includes trying to find out if Homo antecessor, who lived in the Burgos mountains in central-northern Spain some 800,000 years ago, could also speak and emit sounds much like modern man.

The hominid species on which studies were conducted are not ancestors of modern humans, but of the extinct Neanderthals, suggesting a common ancestor even further back in time.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news