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Neanderthals more sophisticated than currently believed

Were Neanderthals more sophisticated than currently believed?

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Neanderthals were once considered to be subhuman brutes with low intelligence and capable of communicating through little more than a series of grunts. However, research fuelled by a fascination into the plight of the Neanderthals who mysteriously died out some 30,000 years ago, has uncovered a number of findings about the Neanderthals which suggests they were not as ‘subhuman’ as once believed and may have even had a sophisticated form of speech and language.

Evidence revealing a certain level of sophistication and cultural practices amongst Neanderthals has included findings demonstrating that they created art , used medicinal plants , and created a comfortable ‘base’ that they would have considered home.  Now a paper has emerged, published in the Frontiers in Language Sciences, which suggests that may have had a form of modern language and speech.

The existence of Neanderthals was first discovered about 200 years ago in Europe and it is now known that they were a subspecies of the genus Homo, which is closely related to modern humans. They shared a common ancestor with the Homo sapiens (modern humans) about half a million years ago but the exact nature of their cognitive capacities has been unknown, even though studies have revealed a very similar brain size to humans.

For many years it was assumed that they were far inferior in their cognitive capacities because modern humans succeeded in replacing them. However, due to new palaeoanthropological and archaeological discoveries, scientists have started to realise that their cognitive capacities and culture were in fact similar to ours.

Dan Dediu and Sstephen Levinson, Psycholinguistic researchers, have argued in their paper in Frontiers in Languages Sciences that modern language and speech are an ancient feature of our lineage dating back at least to the most recent ancestor we shared with the Neanderthals and the Denisovans (another form of humanity known mostly from their genome), which suggests that Neanderthals did have a form of speech and language.

There is still much to learn about our ancient ancestors and, as science and technology progress, it is hoped that many of the secrets of our origins will finally be revealed.

By April Holloway

Source: Archaeology News Network

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