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Stone-tool scratches on the front teeth of Neanderthals and their presumed European ancestors occur at angles denoting right-handedness in most of these Stone Age hominids, just as in human populations today, say anthropologist David Frayer of the University of Kansas in Lawrence and his colleagues.
Scientists have linked prevalent right-handedness in human populations to a left-brain hemisphere that controls right-sided body movements and enables critical language functions. Given the new tooth evidence, populations of largely right-handed Neanderthals and their predecessors must have possessed a gift for gab
Along with widespread right-handedness indicating that these ancient hominids possessed language-ready brains, humanlike inner-ear fossils show that Neanderthals’ ancestors could hear all the sounds employed in modern tongues. Other researchers contend that, based on vocal-tract reconstructions informed by skull and upper-body fossils, Neanderthals were physically incapable of articulating some modern speech sounds. In these scientists’ view, language as spoken today originated in Homo sapiens sometime after 200,000 years ago.