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Hyoid Bone

The hyoid bone (lingual bone) is a horseshoe-shaped bone situated at the root of the tongue in the front of the neck and between the lower jaw and the largest cartilage of the larynx, or voice box. At rest, it lies at the level of the base of the mandible in the front and the third cervical vertebra (C3) behind. Unlike other bones, the hyoid is only distantly articulated to other bones by muscles or ligaments, thus it has a purely anchoring function. The hyoid is anchored by muscles from the anterior, posterior and inferior directions, and aids in tongue movement and swallowing. The hyoid bone provides attachment to the muscles of the floor of the mouth and the tongue above, the larynx below, and the epiglottis and pharynx behind. The hyoid bone is present in many mammals. It allows a wider range of tongue, pharyngeal and laryngeal movements by bracing these structures alongside each other in order to produce variation. Its descent in living creatures is not unique to Homo sapiens, and does not allow the production of a wide range of sounds: with a lower larynx, men do not produce a wider range of sounds than women and 2 year old babies. Moreover the larynx position of Neanderthal was not a handicap to producing speech sounds. The discovery of a modern-looking hyoid bone of a Neanderthal man in the Kebara Cave in Israel led its discoverers to argue that the Neanderthals had a descended larynx, and thus human-like speech capabilities. However, other researchers have claimed that the morphology of the hyoid is not indicative of the larynx's position. It is necessary to take into consideration the skull base, the mandible and the cervical vertebrae and a cranial reference plane.