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Original scientific paper

A Homo Erectus Hyoid Bone: Possible Implications for the Origin of the Human Capability for Speech

Luigi Capasso
Elisabetta Michetti
Ruggero D’Anastasio

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Authors describe a hyoid bone body, without horns, attributed to Homo erectus from Castel di Guido (Rome, Italy),
dated to about 400,000 years BP. The hyoid bone body shows the bar-shaped morphology characteristic of Homo, in contrast
to the bulla-shaped body morphology of African apes and Australopithecus. Its measurements differ from those of
the only known complete specimens from other extinct human species and early hominid (Kebara Neandertal and Australopithecus
afarensis), and from the mean values observed in modern humans. The almost total absence of muscular
impressions on the body’s ventral surface suggests a reduced capability for elevating this hyoid bone and modulating the
length of the vocal tract in Homo erectus. The shield-shaped body, the probable small size of the greater horns and the radiographic
image appear to be archaic characteristics; they reveal some similarities to non-humans and pre-human genera,
suggesting that the morphological basis for human speech didn’t arise in Homo erectus.


paleoanthropolog, articulate language evolution, Castel di Guido

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