Re: Neanderthals
Fri, 18 Jul 1997 14:53:24 -0400 (EDT)

In a message dated 7/18/97 9:07:20 AM, (Carl Feynman) wrote:

>As far as I can tell, it is possible that the Neanderthals couldn't talk, or
>at least not nearly as well as we could.

Almost certainly, they couldn't have spoken any human language, because their
larynx was all wrong. However, there are enough consonants and clicks you
can form with your mouth alone to form a language, easily. Human deaf-mutes
develop fully functional language without using their mouths at all; *our*
language centers are quite adept at making do. So they could have had their
own language, had their brains been set up for it (which we don't know).

>They might, for exmple, have had a
>vocabulary of a few hundred words, and a grammar that only allowed two-word

Or no language at all, or a language as complex as ours (although I'm
inclined to doubt the last).

I agree that the Neanderthals probably lost due to inadequate culture; but
why their culture was inadequate is a very open question. Their bodies were
clearly under less pressure than ours to speak well; our larynxes give us a
substantial risk of choking from food. Quite possibly their language centers
weren't up to ours; that certainly would have prevented sophisticated
communication even though their bodies didn't.

There could have been non-linguistic reasons they didn't have a sophisticated
culture. Maybe different groups just didn't get along. Maybe their
intragroup confilects were too severe. Maybe something else about their
brains was different. Maybe they didn't have elders (how long did they live,

Interesting, they could learn from us, to some extent. They have found one
Neanderthal burial site. Normally burial was a human custom; before this
they didn't think Neanderthals ever buried their dead. The speculation is
that they learned it from humans. I believe there were even flowers in the
grave (well, they found pollen, to be precise). Would that count as art?