Neanderthals could hear and make the same sounds as humans, new research suggests

A virtual reconstruction of the ear in a modern human (left) and a Neanderthal skull. Whether Neanderthals, and other human ancestors, were capable of sophisticated spoken language has been a topic of long-standing debate in human evolution.

(CNN)Forget those brutish caveman grunts. Neanderthals, our closest ancestors, could have produced the same sounds as humans today, according to a study modeling the hearing ability of the Stone Age hominins that went extinct about 40,000 years ago.

Whether Neanderthals, and other human ancestors, were capable of sophisticated spoken language has been a topic of long-standing debate in human evolution.
New research published on Monday suggests that Neanderthals had a vocal communication system that could have been similar to human speech.
    "Neandertals could have produced all the sounds in that frequency range, like we can. There does not seem to be any difference in their ability to produce speech sounds. So they definitely could have said 'hello' or 'ok' if those utterances had any meaning for them," said Rolf Quam, an associate professor and director of the evolutionary studies program at Binghamton University in New York, in an email.