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What Is Unique about the Hyoid Bone?

The hyoid bone is the only bone in the human body that is not connected to any other bones. Located just underneath the tongue, the hyoid bone is held in place by ligaments and muscles and is shaped like a "U." It helps humans with swallowing and moving the tongue; without the hyoid bone, humans would be incapable of articulate speech.

More facts about the hyoid bone:

  • Though other animals have versions of the hyoid bone, they are not shaped or placed the same way, which is why humans are the only ones who have the power of speech.

  • A fracture to the hyoid bone in a dead adult is often a sign that a person has been strangled. It is very difficult, because of the bone's placement, to break it in any other way. This is not always the case in young adults or children, however, because their hyoid bones are still hardening.

  • Ancient hyoid bones might indicate that Neanderthals had the power of speech. It's not certain, though, because speech also heavily depends on the placement of the larynx and other parts of the head and throat relative to the hyoid. No evidence of the placement of the larynx had been found as of 2011, no one could be sure whether Neanderthals could talk.

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