The configuration of the basicranium of the skull of earlier hominid, as well as later neandertal, fossils indicates their upper respiratory anatomy was not fully modern, but more akin to the general primate configuration that allows a simultaneous swallowing and breathing to be conducted without the danger of choking that befalls am humans. The first evidence of anatomical changes towards the modern pattern is seen in such Homo erectus specimens as KNM-ER 3733. Incipient sapiens species, such as Broken Hill, Steinheim and Sale (the latter perhaps an erectus specimen) are within the modern range. This would suggest sound production (or speech) capability on a par with current humans (see Laitman and Reidenberg, 1988).

Additionally, it is clear from the varied aphasias modern humans can show that a modern functional organization of the brain is also a factor in determining speech and symbolic capabilities. Evidence as to the appearance of modern brain organization is scarce. The early specimen KNM-ER 1470 shows (1) the earliest significant increase in brain size that cannot be accounted for in terms of increased body size alone; (2) stronger hemispheric assymetry than extant pongids or australopithecines; and (3) a more human-like third inferior frontal convolution, relating to the modern portion of the brain that contains Broca's area, than extant pongids, and possibly australopithecines. Unfortunately, later fossil endocasts to not preserve sufficient details of sulcal and gyral patterns to allow anything to be said confidently about possible changes in brain organisation with the emergence of am humans (see Holloway, in press).

home Return to original paper