Did you ever wonder how our ancestors (no, not like great aunt Judy) sounded? Well now you can find out. Scientists at the Florida Atlantic University have simulated Neanderthal voices using fossil structure and a computer synthesizer.
An Artist’s Rendering of a Neanderthal
In the end, the scientists believed that Neanderthals spoke, but sounded very different from us. They lacked the ability to well differentiate the sounds that we associate with a, e, i, and u. They discovered this by modeling sounds that a Neanderthal larynx could make. They based their reconstruction on 50,000 year-old bones from France. You can listen to clips at: http://media.newscientist.com/data/images/ns/av/dn13672A1.wav . (That is supposed to be an e, but because they had a hard time with vowels (no Phonics) it could also be heard as an i).
Neanderthals are a dead-end offshoot from the human line of descent. They lived in Europe and western Asia until they disappeared, possibly by peacefully joining the Cro-Magnon species of early humans, or being wiped off the map through violence and struggle around 30,000 years ago.The team now hopes to extend their simulated Neanderthal’s vocabulary.