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Researchers say they have proof that Neanderthals had the capacity to speak as we do. (Nikola Solic/Reuters)
Researchers say they have proof that Neanderthals had the capacity to speak as we do. (Nikola Solic/Reuters)

Tabatha Southey

Caveman talk: Tharg hate neighbour chit-chat Add to ...

The 1989 discovery of a Neanderthal hyoid, or throat bone, resembling that of a modern human led many scientists to speculate that Neanderthals had the capacity to speak as we do. Now, international researchers writing in the online science journal Plos One claim to have proof. They say their analysis using three-dimensional X-ray imaging and mechanical modelling shows, according to team member Stephen Wroe of Australia, that the “hyoid doesn’t just look like those of modern humans – it was used in a very similar way.”

In short, it’s entirely conceivable Neanderthals spoke exactly the way present-day Homo sapiens speak, a fact I believe may shed some light on the mystery of their extinction, and perhaps serve as a cautionary tale to humanity. I have begun to imagine what it must have been like when our ancient ancestors, the cavemen, moved into the cave right next hide-over-the-opening to these loquacious Neanderthals.

Here, Tharg talks with his wife, Oona, about Dylan and Olivia, the Neanderthals next door.

“I paint picture of me chase sabre-tooth tiger on wall. Have mastery over beast! No-chin-man Dylan say ‘awesome,’ but no look like he find awesome. Me think No-chin-peoples no fear sabre-tooth tiger. Fear only gluten. I say, ‘Paint picture you chase gluten on wall!’ Man say, ‘Bro,’ and woman say, ‘Actually, we’re exploring doing that wall in repurposed stalagmites.’

“Not am ‘Bro.’ Am Tharg! Bro cousin. Eat by sabre-tooth tiger.”

“Tharg need paint new tiger? Oona get paint. Tharg paint tiger fall off cliff!”

“No. Tharg just make red hands on long wall. Make proof Tharg exist and he search meaning for when Tharg gone from under both sun and stars, eat by sabre-tooth tiger.”

“Last big moon, Oona ask No-chin Olivia come lunch. Say make good mammoth ...”

“Tharg like eat good mammoth!”

“No-chin-lady say can take rain check? Has book club. Oona say, ‘How you can have book club? No have letters.’ No-chin-lady say, ‘It’s primarily about networking.’ Ask Oona if mammoth free-range and if Oona consider putting Turg in the gifted program.”

“You want Tharg get paint? You paint No-chin-lady fall off cliff?”

“On to sabre-tooth tiger? Bring much paint. Oona paint two tiger – No-chin-lady ask Oona do hot yoga. Is ice age and hot yoga no give you chin, Olivia.”

“Why No-chin-man call No-chin-lady his ‘partner’? Like man and woman run restaurant together not make grunt-grunt on heap of fur by fire after eat mammoth, make man forget sabre-tooth tiger?”

“Why she make big deal have ‘partner’ on ‘paleo diet’?” Is Upper Paleolithic. All diet paleo. Why Olivia hunt and gather only goji berries? Because no chin?”

“Why my drum ‘drum’? His drum ‘sound system’?”

“Why I go find rock is ‘I go find rock’? She go find rock is ‘antiquing’?

“Why Dylan say ‘impacted’? Tharg like see Dylan impacted by stone axe. Tharg never seen man with no beard! Tharg never think man no could have beard, now Tharg watch Dylan stroke beard so often Tharg hate Dylan’s beard so much Tharg no sleep. Tharg only think of beard hate! No sleep for one moon. Close eyes – see beard! Tharg surprise self last night design circular component able to rotate on axial. Immediate plan is to drop component on Dylan. Long-term use to transport dead body so Tharg not have to look at stupid beard.”

“Oona say too much work. Put body in ground, Tharg no see stupid beard. Put beads in ground with body. Oona no listen to Olivia talk of ‘accessorizing’ again. With beads in ground Olivia talk only of ‘juicing,’ ‘toddlers’ ‘and “frenemies” going forward.” Olivia no wail at moon for loss of ‘partner’ or find ‘problematic’ if Oona and Tharg refer to burial as ‘artisanal, tell her wheel is ‘fair trade’ suggest thing we will call ‘grave’ is excellent ‘storage solution.’ But what if no-chin-Olivia ‘locally source’ new no-chin-man, they have ‘dialogue,’ make grunt-grunt, make more no-chin ‘toddlers’ from ‘baby bumps’ who reach ‘milestones’ they must ‘share’ with Oona?”

“Tharg no think no-chin Olivia be problem for many more moons.”

“How bad end come, Tharg? Olivia speak of ‘self-care’ so much make Oona want hurt her.”

“Oona, my love, you tell Tharg to not ‘mansplain’ savage beast to you once – next sabre-tooth tiger crouching on rocky over-hang have your name on it, Olivia.”

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