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Scientists have known for at least a century that the human hand has unique characteristics designed for gripping and manipulating objects, as opposed to the locomotion-designed hands of our closest ape relatives. Recently, Dr. Stephen Lycett and Alastair Key of the University of Kent, England, published an article in the Journal of Archaeological Science showing an important breakthrough: Darwin was right — about our hands, that is.

Lycett and Key’s study measured how hand size affected users’ ability to cut rope using stone-flake tools similar to those discovered in Africa and used by early humans 2.6 million years ago. To sum up, hand size did prove to be a significant factor in how well different people could manipulate different forms of stone tools. The experiments support the concept that natural selection favored cave-folk with the correct “biometric variation” (i.e. more modern and less ape-like hands) — and therefore, those better able to use tools were more likely to live on and reproduce.


A final interesting thought from Dr. Lycett: “From a very early stage in our evolution, the cultural behaviour of our ancestors was influencing biological evolution in specific ways.” So, perhaps showing your kids the proper way to use hand tools really will make your distant descendants more successful at the survival game.

Stone Tools Influenced Hand Evolution in Our Ancestors
[University of Kent Research News]
Technology Based Evolution?
[Article by Lycett and Key from the Journal of Archeological Science]

 

11 Responses to Darwin Was Right: Human Hands Evolved For Tools

  1. zoomzoomjeff says:

    I’m confused. Is this National Geographic or Toolmonger???

  2. Jerry says:

    Arrowheads are tools! :-) I think the point is that we have always used, and needed, tools. I am very sure it was not posted to begin a creationism/darwinism debate.

  3. george says:

    yea, but but i want to swing in the trees !

  4. Joe C. says:

    Who is the distributor for these “hands”?

  5. DoItRite says:

    I know that my cat has been sitting there with that look of contempt thinking: “If I only had thumbs….”

  6. DoItRite says:

    Come to think of it, that arrowhead that I found in my garden a couple of years ago is my oldest tool!

  7. Toolhearty says:

    DoItRite Says:
    I know that my cat has been sitting there with that look of contempt thinking: “If I only had thumbs….”

    If cats ever develop thumbs, humans should be very, very concerned.

  8. Chuck Cage says:

    @zoomzoomjeff: It’s a little of both, of course. Ever wonder why we feel the drive we do to own, understand, and use tools? I’ve always felt that it’s a natural thing — something we just *do*. Seems like there’s some scientific background behind that after all. :)

    And interestingly, the same goes for introducing your kids to tools. My parents took me out in the shop (and kitchen) early, and I’ve always suspected that gave me a leg up in the world.

  9. aaron says:

    interesting. thanks for posting this!

  10. Fong says:

    I’ve always wondered why that fundamental drive *doesn’t* show up in more people. I’ve found toolmongers to be the minority, not the majority. This relates back to a post you guys wrote about how we learn about tools. For me, it was friends and neighbors, not through my own lineage. I’ve always wondered why that was. If we truly did evolve into toolmongers millions of years ago, why then is it innate in so few?

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