April 27, 1989 |
The discovery of a 60,000-year-old, two-inch neck bone in a cave in Israel, reported in today's issue of the British journal Nature, suggests that modern man's brutish predecessor, the Neanderthal, may have had the physical capacity to speak. The conclusion--drawn by a group of Israeli, French and American archeologists--has provoked sharp reactions from other scientists and has rekindled a long-simmering controversy over the origin and evolution of human language. But Baruch Arensburg and his colleagues in Israel contend that the tiny U-shaped fossil, which was discovered in the Kebara Cave at Mt. Carmel, closely resembles its counterpart, known as the hyoid bone, in modern humans.