Dr. craig’s response
You’re absolutely right, Scott, to see language ability as indicative of modern human cognitive capacity. You’re also right in saying that Genesis portrays Adam and Eve as having just such an ability.
The obvious difficulty in figuring out how far back linguistic capacity goes is that language doesn’t leave any traces in the archaeological record (at least until writing was invented around 3,000 B.C.). So what palaeoanthropologists have to do is look for anatomical and archaeological clues that would likely suggest linguistic ability.
Anatomically, a large brain size in a hominin is a prerequisite for language capacity, and the presence of a large brain increases the probability of linguistic ability. So Lewin and Foley think that once hominins attained a brain size in excess of 1000 cm3 there seems to be little doubt that linguistic capabilities existed and that therefore language may have been present at least in Neanderthals.
Given the paucity of information to be gained from cranial endocasts, investigators have turned to a study of other anatomical features requisite for speech. A great deal of study has gone into exploring the significance of the differences in the Neanderthal vocal tract compared to that of Homo sapiens. Noting studies which purport to show that a Neanderthal equipped with a modern vocal tract would have a larynx impossibly low in the chest, Daniel Lieberman asks, “If true, does this result mean that Neanderthals, other species of archaic Homo, and possibly even some early modern humans couldn’t speak? Of course not. It is hard to imagine that they lacked the capacity for speech, particularly given the large size of their brains. But it may be possible that their articulation was less precise than an adult modern human’s, perhaps more like that of a 4–6 year-old, lacking fully quantal eehs and oohs.” Indeed, Philip Lieberman thinks that “Speech must have been in place in archaic hominids ancestral to humans and Neanderthals. There would have been no selective advantage for retaining mutations that yielded the species-specific human speech producing anatomy at the cost of increased morbidity from choking, unless speech was already present.”
A survey of the archaeological evidence points to behaviors among Neanderthals and other archaic humans that plausibly required linguistic ability. Dediu and Levinson summarize,
Language affords culture-carrying capacity (e.g. there are no advanced technologies without language), and this linkage allows reasonable inferences from the archeological record. Therefore, we think it is overwhelmingly likely that Neanderthals were as much articulate beings as we ourselves are, that is, with large vocabularies and combinatorial structures that allowed propositional content and illocutionary force to be conveyed. Only such an advanced communication system could have carried the advanced cultural adaptations that Neanderthals exhibited. . . .
If one considers all of the cultural skills needed to survive in ecologies from the Arctic to game-poor Mediterranean littorals, it is difficult to argue that Neanderthals lacked complex linguistic codes, capable of communicating about spatial locations, hunting and gathering, fauna and flora, social relations, technologies, and so on. This would imply a large lexicon, and propositional encoding. Granting Neanderthals advanced language capacities seems to us inevitable.
Let me give you four specific examples, each astonishing. First, the Neanderthal constructions in Bruniquel Cave in France dating to 176,000 years ago. Jacques Jaubert, the head archaeologist at the site, reports,
This type of construction implies the beginnings of a social organization: This organization could consist of a project that was designed and discussed by one or several individuals, a distribution of the tasks of choosing, collecting and calibrating the speleofacts [stalagmites], followed by their transport (or vice versa) and placement according to a predetermined plan. This work would also require adequate lighting. . . . The complexity of the structure, combined with its difficult access (335 m from the cave entrance), are signs of a collective project and therefore suggest the existence of an organized society that was already on the path to ‘modernity’.
It is not just the complexity of the structures, however, that is indicative of design. Beavers’ dams and huts are probably just as complex but are the result of blind instinct, not conception and planning, as is evident from their uniformity and frequency. What distinguishes the Neanderthal constructions is their conventionality, evident from their rarity and placement, which is the essence of symbolic thinking. Reflecting on the significance of the discovery at Bruniquel Cave, Chris Stringer remarks, “this discovery provides clear evidence that Neanderthals had fully human capabilities in the planning and the construction of ‘stone’ structures.”
Second, the amazing recent discovery of a piece of string manufactured by Neanderthals 40-50,000 years ago. A fragment of three-ply fiber cord has been recovered from the Neanderthal site of Abri du Maras in France. The cord has three strands of fibers obtained from the inner bark of a conifer tree and each twisted clockwise and then as group twisted counterclockwise. The excavators emphasize that cordage manufacture involves a complex sequence of operations, including processing of the bark fibers and keeping track of multiple, sequential operations simultaneously to weave a cord. “Indeed, the production of cordage requires an understanding of mathematical concepts and general numeracy in the creation of sets of elements and pairs of numbers to create a structure.” As the structure becomes more complex (multiple cords twisted to form a rope, ropes interlaced to form knots), it “requires a cognitive complexity similar to that required by human language.” Hardy et al. opine that in view of the ongoing revelations of Neanderthal art and technology, “it is difficult to see how we can regard Neanderthals as anything other than the cognitive equals of modern humans.”
Third, Neanderthal cave art. You’re from Spain, Scott, so you’ll be interested to learn that artistic representations discovered at Neanderthal sites in Spain have supplied evidence of symbolic thinking. Hand stencils have been identified in Maltravieso Cave, along with other instances of non-figurative paintings in La Pasiega Cave and Ardales Cave. The paintings date collectively from a minimum of 65,000 years ago. Reflecting on the significance of this finding, Hoffman et al. state,
This cave painting activity constitutes a symbolic behavior by definition, and one that is deeply rooted. At Ardales, distinct episodes over a period of more than 25 ka corroborate that we are not dealing with a one-off burst but with a long tradition that may well stretch back to the time of the annular construction found in Bruniquel cave, France, dated to 176.5 ± 2.1 ka ago. Dating results for the excavation site at Cueva de los Aviones, Spain, which place symbolic use of marine shells and mineral pigments by Neandertals at >115 ka ago, further support the antiquity of Neanderthal symbolism.
The contemporaneous presence of similar cave art in both Spain and Indonesia half the world away and the age of ornamental use of shells by Neanderthals implies an origin of symbolic behavior which is vastly older still. Hoffmann et al. conclude, “The corollary of these findings is that the capacity for symbolism must have been inherited from a common ancestor. As a working hypothesis, we suggest that the origins of language and the advanced cognition characteristic of extant humans may precede the period before the divergence of the Neandertal lineage, more than half-a-million years ago.”[TB1]
Finally, fourth, the evidence of big game hunting. The eight wooden spears recovered at Schöningen, Germany, point to pre-Neanderthal cooperation and planning that plausibly required linguistic ability. The spears date to the third interglacial period 400-300,000 years ago. Reproductions of the Schöningen spears have been made, and they turn out to be on a par with Olympic javelins!Hartmut Thieme, the chief excavator at Schöningen, contends that the manufacture alone of the spears, not to mention the cooperation involved in hunting wild herd animals, is sufficient for abstract, conceptual thinking. The spears were found in association with remains of a herd of wild horses, the prey of the hunters. The hunters apparently pinned the herd of horses against the shore of a lake and may have driven them into the water where their escape could be slowed, thus evincing a hunting strategy. Thieme believes that in order for such a venture to succeed, “extremely careful planning, coordination, and discussion among the hunters” must have taken place, right down to the many details. “Found in association with stone tools and the butchered remains of more than ten horses, the spears strongly suggest that systematic hunting, involving foresight, planning and the use of appropriate technology, was part of the behavioral repertoire of pre-modern hominids.” Thieme even believes that there must have already existed among the hunters at this early time “highly evolved, richly diverse, verbal communication.”
Unfortunately, no human remains were found in connection with the Schöningen spears, leaving us to guess at the identity of the hunters. The incredible antiquity of these artifacts and their similarity to the finds at Clacton and Boxgrove, England, where human remains have been found, suggests that they are the design and manufacture of Homo heidelbergensis, the ostensible progenitor of Homo neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens.
So I think you can see, Scott, that linguistic ability among Neanderthals and their progenitors can in no wise be ruled out.
 Roger Lewin and Robert A. Foley,Principles of Human Evolution, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004), p. 474.
 Daniel E. Lieberman, The Evolution of the Human Head (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2011), pp. 330-31. A longer oral cavity “does not rule out the possibility that archaic Homo could speak or had sophisticated language, but it does suggest slightly less articulate (quantal) speech, perhaps comparable to a 4-6-year-old modern human’s” (Ibid., p. 589). Perhaps I might be permitted to report anecdotally that when my 2½ year old grandson says his A, B, Cs, his [ i ] and [ u ] sounds are perfectly clear.
 Philip Lieberman, “Current views on Neanderthal speech capabilities: A reply to Boe et al. (2002),” Journal of Phonetics 35/4 (2007): 559 [my emphasis].
 Dan Dediu and Stephen C. Levinson, “Neanderthal language revisited: not only us,” Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences 21 (2018): 52-53.
 Chris Stringer, "A comment on the 'Early Neanderthal constructions deep in Bruniquel Cave in southwestern France' paper published in Nature,"Natural History Museum, London, (25 May 2016), https://www.nhm.ac.uk/press-office/press-releases/comment-on-early-neanderthal-constructions-in-brunique-cave.html. “Stone” is in scare quotes because the speleofacts were stalagmites.
 B. L. Hardy et al., “Direct evidence of Neanderthal fibre technology and its cognitive and behavioral implications,” Science Reports 10 (2020): 4889 https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-61839-w.
 D. L. Hoffmann, et al., “U-Th dating of carbonate crusts reveals Neandertal origin of Iberian cave art,” Science359, no. 6378(23 Feb 2018), p. 915, DOI: 10.1126/science.aap7778. See also Dirk L. Hoffmann et al., “Symbolic Use of Marine Shells and Mineral Pigments by Iberian Neandertals 115,000 Years Ago,”Science Advances4, no. 2 (February 2018): eaar5255, https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.aar5255.
 Hoffmann et al., “Symbolic use.”
The Schöningen spears average about 2.2 m in length and 500 gm in weight, making them only slightly heavier (100 g) than javelins thrown by female athletes. Three wooden replicas of the spears were tested for distance, accuracy, and penetration. Without training with the spears, athletes were able to achieve comparable results to modern javelins.
 Hartmut Thieme, “Der grosse Wurf von Schöningen: Das neue Bild zur Kultur des frühen Menschen,” in Die Schöninger Speere: Mensch und Jagd vor 400 000 Jahren, ed. Hartmut Thieme (Stuttgart: Konrad Thiess Verlag, 2007), p. 227.
 Hartmut Thieme, “Überlegungen zum Gesamtbefund des Wild-Pferd-Jagdlagers,” in Die Schöninger Speere, p. 178.
 Hartmut Thieme, “Lower Paleolithic Hunting Spears from Germany,” Nature 385 (27 February 1997), p. 807.
 Hartmut Thieme, “Der grosse Wurf von Schöningen,” p. 227.
- William Lane Craig
Neanderthals — the closest ancestor to modern humans — possessed the ability to perceive and produce human speech, according to a new study published by an international multidisciplinary team of researchers including Binghamton University Associate Professor of Anthropology Rolf Quam and graduate student Alex Velez.Did Neanderthals have religion? ›
Neanderthals Turned to Faith When Confronting Death, New Evidence Suggests. We aren't sure whether they could speak, let alone intone liturgy over their dead in the light of controlled fires, but a child's burial site in Spain suggests they might well have, say archaeologists.What do anthropologists debate about Neanderthals? ›
For many years, Paleoanthropologists have contemplated on whether or not Neanderthals interbred with Homo Sapiens, or if they became completely extinct over a period time.What is the Neanderthal controversy? ›
The first Neanderthal fossil was discovered in Germany in 1856, just three years before Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species. This finding sparked a flurry of controversy: Some suggested the remains belonged to an unknown species of human; others argued the body came from an ill human.What would Neanderthals have sounded like if they spoke? ›
The sounds of the Stone Age may have been even less dignified than we thought. A vocal expert working with the BBC suggests that Neanderthal vocalizations may have sounded less like low grunts and more like high-pitched shrieks. Patsy Rodenburg has dedicated her career to understanding and exploring the sounds we make.What abilities did Neanderthal have? ›
Neanderthals made and used a diverse set of sophisticated tools, controlled fire, lived in shelters, made and wore clothing, were skilled hunters of large animals and also ate plant foods, and occasionally made symbolic or ornamental objects.What were caveman religious beliefs? ›
The Paleolithic people also had early forms of animalism or the worship of animals. Beyond just animalism, they also seem to have believed in animism, meaning giving spirits to natural and inanimate objects, and used rock paintings and petroglyphs, or rock carvings, for religious or magic rituals.Can Neanderthals think? ›
There is now good evidence that Neanderthals were cognitively sophisticated, displaying many of the cognitive traits that were traditionally regarded as proxies for modern human cognition, notably including language.Did early humans believe in God? ›
People in the ancient world did not always believe in the gods, a new study suggests – casting doubt on the idea that religious belief is a 'default setting' for humans.What traits do Neanderthals have in humans today? ›
Overall, we found that Neanderthal ancestry contributes less-than-expected to the genetics of most traits in modern Europeans. However, Neanderthal variants contribute more-than-expected to several traits, including immunity, circadian rhythms, bone density, menopause age, lung capacity, and skin color.
The Neanderthal population was so small at the time modern humans arrived in Europe and the Near East that inbreeding and natural fluctuations in birth rates, death rates and sex ratios could have finished them off, the scientists claim.What are two theories on why Neanderthals went extinct? ›
There are a number of competing theories as to why the Neanderthals disappeared, such as climate change, the aggression of Homo sapiens, possible competition for resources, or even that Neanderthals disappeared because they interbred with Homo sapiens.Were Neanderthals peaceful? ›
Far from peaceful, Neanderthals were likely skilled fighters and dangerous warriors, rivalled only by modern humans. Predatory land mammals are territorial, especially pack-hunters. Like , wolves and our own species sapiens, Neanderthals were cooperative big-game hunters.Why are Africans not Neanderthals? ›
For 10 years, geneticists have told the story of how Neanderthals—or at least their DNA sequences—live on in today's Europeans, Asians, and their descendants. Not so in Africans, the story goes, because modern humans and our extinct cousins interbred only outside of Africa.What is the killer Neanderthal theory? ›
Archeological evidence suggests that not only did humans and Neanderthals live together, some even slept together. A rare blood disorder discovered in Neanderthal babies was likely the result of breeding with humans, according to a new study.Were Neanderthals as smart as humans? ›
Their brains might have been just as big as ours, but ours might have been better at a few key tasks–those involved in building social bonds in particular—allowing us to survive the most recent glacial period while the Neanderthals expired.Did Neanderthals smell? ›
One of the Neanderthals had a genetic mutation that diminished its ability to smell androstadienone — a chemical associated with the scents of urine and sweat. That could've been a big help for those living in close proximities with other Neanderthals in caves.Did Neanderthals have blue eyes? ›
Fair skin, hair and eyes : Neanderthals are believed to have had blue or green eyes, as well as fair skin and light hair. Having spent 300,000 years in northern latitudes, five times longer than Homo sapiens, it is only natural that Neanderthals should have developed these adaptive traits first.How smart would Neanderthals be? ›
“They were believed to be scavengers who made primitive tools and were incapable of language or symbolic thought.”Now, he says, researchers believe that Neanderthals “were highly intelligent, able to adapt to a wide variety of ecologicalzones, and capable of developing highly functional tools to help them do so.What made Neanderthals so strong? ›
Neanderthals also developed strong trapezius, deltoid, and tricep muscles by dragging 50 pounds of meat 30 miles home to their families. A Neanderthal had a wider pelvis and lower center of gravity than Homo sapiens, which would have made him a powerful grappler.
Summary: New research by archaeologists in the UK suggests that Neanderthals belied their primitive reputation and had a deep seated sense of compassion.When did humans start believing in God? ›
Prehistoric evidence of religion. The exact time when humans first became religious remains unknown, however research in evolutionary archaeology shows credible evidence of religious-cum-ritualistic behavior from around the Middle Paleolithic era (45–200 thousand years ago).What is the oldest religion on the face of the earth? ›
Adherents hold that Hinduism—one of the principal faiths in the modern world, with about one billion followers—is the world's oldest religion, with complete scriptural texts dating back 3,000 years.What is the oldest religion known to man? ›
The word Hindu is an exonym, and while Hinduism has been called the oldest religion in the world, many practitioners refer to their religion as Sanātana Dharma (Sanskrit: सनातन धर्म, lit.Were Neanderthals self aware? ›
We found that Neanderthals had nearly the same genes for emotional reactivity as chimpanzees, and they were intermediate between modern humans and chimpanzees in their numbers of genes for both self-control and self-awareness.Is Neanderthal DNA linked to intelligence? ›
Both of the brain regions in which the Neanderthal fragments were discovered are involved in key functions such as learning and coordinating movements. However despite this, the scientists stressed there is no indication the DNA pieces have any effect on the cognitive abilities of modern humans.Who were smarter Neanderthal or Homosapien? ›
Neanderthals, our ancient human cousins, were smarter and more culturally evolved than previously thought. Not only had they successfully built different kinds of tools out of bone and wood, a new study shows that they also made cave art before the arrival of Homo sapiens.Who started atheism? ›
The first known explicit atheist was the German critic of religion Matthias Knutzen in his three writings of 1674. He was followed by two other explicit atheist writers, the Polish ex-Jesuit philosopher Kazimierz Łyszczyński and in the 1720s by the French priest Jean Meslier.Who was the first man on earth and what was his religion? ›
|Born||Day 6, 1 AM Garden of Eden|
|Died||c. 930 AM|
|Venerated in||Christianity (Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Churches, Oriental Orthodox Churches) Islam Druze Baháʼí Faith Mandaeism|
The religiously unaffiliated now make up just over one quarter of the U.S. population. While the Nones include agnostics and atheists, most people in this category retain a belief in God or some higher power. Many describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious,” or “SBNR,” as researchers refer to them.
A structure that represents the biggest known genetic difference between humans and Neanderthals also predisposes humans to autism.Who has the highest percentage of Neanderthal DNA? ›
East Asians seem to have the most Neanderthal DNA in their genomes, followed by those of European ancestry. Africans, long thought to have no Neanderthal DNA, were recently found to have genes from the hominins comprising around 0.3 percent of their genome.Is red hair a Neanderthal trait? ›
Red hair wasn't inherited from Neanderthals at all. It now turns out they didn't even carry the gene for it!When did humans stop inbreeding? ›
Early humans seem to have recognised the dangers of inbreeding at least 34,000 years ago, and developed surprisingly sophisticated social and mating networks to avoid it, new research has found.Why don't we bring back Neanderthals? ›
Since there are millions of DNA differences between a human and a Neanderthal, CRISPR/Cas9 would probably have to be done millions of times. Not once per change as CRISPR/Cas9 is versatile enough to do many changes at once but at the very least you'd need hundreds of thousands of changes.Why did Neanderthals stop evolving? ›
Stanford scientists link Neanderthal extinction to human diseases. Complex disease transmission patterns could explain why it took tens of thousands of years after first contact for our ancestors to replace Neanderthals throughout Europe and Asia.How inbred were Neanderthals? ›
Inbreeding, a practice of mating between relatives, was common among Neanderthals according to previous research. Inbreeding also leads to a reduction of reproductive fitness. Neanderthals had 40% lower reproductive fitness than modern humans, according to previous research cited in the new study.Why don t Neanderthals still exist? ›
The spread of modern humans across Europe is associated with the demise and ultimate extinction of Neanderthal populations 40,000 years ago, likely due to competition for resources.Could other human species still exist? ›
The last “sympatric” humans we know of were Neanderthals, who became extinct only about 30,000 years ago. Since stable separation of parts of the species is the key factor for the formation of new species, we can say that a new split of our species is impossible under current circumstances.Could humans and Neanderthals communicate? ›
TRENDING SCIENCE: Neanderthals could hear and communicate like Homo sapiens, say scientists. Neanderthals had the capacity to produce and hear human-like speech, new study finds.
The Neanderthal hyoid bone
Its similarity to those of modern humans was seen as evidence by some scientists that Neanderthals possessed a modern vocal tract and were therefore capable of fully modern speech.
Denisovans are close relatives of both modern humans and Neanderthals, and likely diverged from these lineages around 300,000 to 400,000 years ago; they are more closely related to Neanderthals than to modern humans.Do Native Americans have Neanderthal DNA? ›
According to their analysis, Neanderthals contributed roughly 2% of their DNA to modern people outside Africa and half a percent to Denisovans, who contributed 0.2% of their DNA to Asian and Native American people.What race has the least Neanderthal DNA? ›
The percentage of Neanderthal DNA in modern humans is zero or close to zero in people from African populations, and is about 1 to 2 percent in people of European or Asian background.How long were Neanderthals pregnant for? ›
leir 1969). birth for the seven species with gestations of 330-390 days, in contrast, is 26.4 kg, eight times that of living humans. of 12-14 months is far too long, being based as it was on Sacher and Staf since their species included few primates.Are Neanderthals violent? ›
There is evidence of violence among Neanderthals. The 40,000-year-old Neanderthal skull of St. Césaire has a healed fracture in its cranial vault likely caused by something sharp, suggesting interpersonal violence.Does Neanderthal DNA do anything? ›
The Neanderthal genes that remain in some human DNA today tend to affect the functioning of the immune system and hair and skin traits – such as hair color, tendency toward baldness and the skin's capacity to tan, Capra said.Did Neanderthals have intelligence? ›
“They were believed to be scavengers who made primitive tools and were incapable of language or symbolic thought.”Now, he says, researchers believe that Neanderthals “were highly intelligent, able to adapt to a wide variety of ecologicalzones, and capable of developing highly functional tools to help them do so.Did cavemen have speech? ›
Scientists believe the first complex conversation between humans took place around 50,000 to 100,000 years ago. Much of it, they say, involved cavemen grunting, or hunter-gatherers mumbling and pointing, before learning to speak in a detailed way.Did Neanderthals have a larynx? ›
The Neanderthal larynx was placed high in the neck by analogy with the configuration found in non-human adult primates and newborn humans, on the basis that numerous aspects of the Neanderthal cranial base and mandible were more like the human newborn than adult forms.
Scientists have concluded that Neanderthals were not the primitive dimwits they are commonly portrayed to have been.Which was the smartest human species? ›
Anthropologists and other scientists have held that human intelligence crossed a threshold (a 'magical' rubicon) with the arrival of Homo sapiens , who replaced Homo erectus a million years ago. It was believed that Homo erectus was not intelligent enough to make anything more than crude stone tools.When did humans first start to speak? ›
Researchers have long debated when humans starting talking to each other. Estimates range wildly, from as late as 50,000 years ago to as early as the beginning of the human genus more than 2 million years ago.What was the first human species to speak? ›
Language expert suggests Homo erectus learned to speak early in mankind's history, enabling them to cross oceans.Could Stone Age man speak? ›
Early on, even our Homo sapiens ancestors only made tools from stones, but having the ability to speak, they probably used their language to teach one another. As time went on, they learned to make many different kinds of tools from stones, wood, bones and leather.Why were Neanderthals so muscular? ›
In other words, Neanderthals were genetically programmed for bulkier, more powerful muscles that made them suited for short bursts of activity, while modern human muscles were designed for endurance. The Neanderthal physique also seems to be well-suited to striding up and down the hilly European landscape.Which population has highest Neanderthal DNA? ›
East Asians seem to have the most Neanderthal DNA in their genomes, followed by those of European ancestry. Africans, long thought to have no Neanderthal DNA, were recently found to have genes from the hominins comprising around 0.3 percent of their genome.