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Stone Age Ear for Speech: Ancient finds sound off on roots of language

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5:00pm, June 23, 2004

Using digital enhancements of skull fragments from five prehistoric individuals dating to more than 350,000 years ago, anthropologists argue that these human ancestors probably had hearing similar to that of people today.

Since the ears of social mammals are typically designed to perceive sounds made by fellow species members, the humanlike hearing of these ancient folk probably was accompanied by speech, contend Ignacio Martínez of the University of Alcalá in Spain, and his colleagues in an upcoming Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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