The Singing Neanderthals: The Origins of Music, Language, Mind and Body

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Orion Publishing Group, Limited, 2005 - Behavior evolution - 374 pages
The development of language was one of the key factors that enabled the emergence of the modern mind, with its seemingly unlimited powers of imagination, curiosity and invention. It is one of the things that makes us human and, whether gestural, written or spoken, allows us to communicate ideas from the most mundane to the most profound. But while the origins of language have provoked furious debate, those of music- our other major vocal and aural communication system have been oddly neglected, and though many have picked at the puzzle, its evolutionary significance has often been dismissed.


In The Singing Neanderthals, Mithen puts the popular notion of music as the language of emotion on a scientific basis, offering a new scenario for a shared musical and linguistic heritage. Structured in two parts, this books offers an array of evidence from the present which is exposed to fossil and archaeological records from the past. And fascinating ground is covered- from emotionally manipulative gibbons, through the neurological basis of music and language to the impact of happiness on helpfulness, and from the role of laughter in parent-child bonding to the impact of bipedalism on the brains and voices of our ancestors. In doing so, Mithen explains why there are such profound similarities and differences between music and language, and why music plays such a big part in all of our lives.

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User Review  - vguy - LibraryThing

Wonderful synthesis of prehistory, archaeological detail, neuroscience, psychology, communication, the whole shebang, all with a light touch and flashes of humour. Neatly skirts the "pop science ... Read full review

The singing neanderthals: the origins of music, language, mind, and body

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Mithen (The Prehistory of Mind; After the Ice) draws on archaeological record and current research on neurology and genetics to explain how and why humans think, talk and make music the way they do ... Read full review

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