The hyoid bone is a U-shaped bone and is situated in your anterior neck between your mandible and thyroid cartilage. It serves as a muscle attachment site for your four suprahyoid muscles and four infrahyoid muscles that move the hyoid for purposes of speaking and swallowing. It is the only bone in the human body not directly articulated with another bone.
Since the hyoid bone has attachments for muscles used in speaking, researchers have looked to this bone to help answer questions about the origin of speech in our evolutionary lineage. Researchers examining a Neanderthal hyoid bone from Israel, dated to about 60,000 years ago, determined that its microstructure was comparable to that of a modern human hyoid, suggesting that Neanderthals were capable of speech like ours (D’Anastasio et al. 2013). Although we did not evolve from Neanderthals, rather Neanderthals evolved independently from Homo erectus and we co-habited with them in Europe, this research challenged our assumptions that we have been the only hominin with speaking abilities.
That’s a wrap on the hyoid – tomorrow we will begin a full week of posts on the skull, starting with the mandible.
REFERENCES & MORE TO EXPLORE
Hyoid bone. Encyclopaedia Britannica Anatomy & Physiology. 2020
Hyoid bone. Crumbie & Goffin. KenHub Anatomy. Last reviewed November 2020
Talking Neanderthals challenge the origins of speech. ScienceDaily. 2 March 2014
Micro-Biomechanics of the Kebara 2 Hyoid and Its Implications for Speech in Neanderthals. D’Anastasio et al. PLOS ONE. 2013