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Listen to the Surprisingly Goofy Voice of a Neanderthal

This goes way beyond grunts.

When we imagine Neanderthals, we typically picture them like much dirtier, hairier versions of ourselves. Imaginative depictions of Homo neanderthalensis usually mean fur pelts, cave paintings, heavy clubs, and grunting. Lots of grunting.

But maybe that’s wrong. In the BBC documentary Neanderthal: The Rebirth a team of scientists investigated Neanderthals’ skeletal remains to recreate how they moved and behaved. For this segment, the BBC employed renowned voice coach Patsy Rodenburg to examine a model of a Neanderthal’s vocal tract and theorize what their voice might have sounded like. It’s not at all what you thought it was. A short voice box, huge ribs, a wide nasal cavity, and a thick, heavy skull made for a sound that was… well, just watch.

A very serious reenactor named Elliot gets the job of reproducing the Neanderthal’s voice with Patsy’s instruction. Elliot deserves an Emmy in the category of Not Laughing.

Every day we track down a Video Wonder: an audiovisual offering that delights, inspires, and entertains. Have you encountered a video we should feature? Email ella@atlasobscura.com.