Functional and morphological affinities of the subadult hand (O.H. 7) from Olduvai Gorge

Am J Phys Anthropol. 1979 Sep;51(3):311-32. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.1330510303.


Study of the O.H. 7 hand was based primarily on morphological comparisons with a large series of hand skeletons of extant hominoid primates. Most of the hand elements are fragmentary or have missing epiphyses and only comparisons based on qualitative morphological observations are possible. The distal phalanges are complete, however, and were analyzed metrically utilizing univariate and multivariate statistical techniques. To compensate for size differences among the Hominoidea a number of size adjustments were employed. None of the adjustments were totally satisfactory from theoretical and practical standpoints and none completely eliminated the influence of size. There is no entirely satisfactory procedure to eliminate size and it is advisable to use several techniques that are not closely related, to compare the results and interpret them with caution. In certain features the wrist and fingers resemble those of African apes; in others they are more like modern human hands; in still others they are unique. The scaphoid and the proximal articular surface of the trapezium retain ape-like features, as do the proximal and middle phalanges. The pollical carpometacarpal joint and the distal phalanges are closer in morphology to those of modern humans. The scaphoid, proximal phalanges and middle phalanges of rays II-V indicate a hand capable of a strong power grip. A number of features of the thumb and the distal phalanges suggest that the O.H. 7 individual was capable of more precise manipulation that extant apes. FLK NN-A, a first distal phalanx, does not closely resemble the first distal phalanx of any of the living Hominoidea. Multivariate distance analysis indicates, however, that it is closest in overall morphology to the pollical distal phalanx of modern humans. In some features not included in the metric analysis, FLK NN-A also resembles the hallucial distal phalanx of modern humans.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Anthropometry
  • Biometry
  • Bone and Bones / anatomy & histology
  • Fingers / anatomy & histology
  • Fossils*
  • Hand / anatomy & histology*
  • Hand / physiology
  • Haplorhini / anatomy & histology*
  • Humans
  • Paleontology*
  • Primates / anatomy & histology*
  • Species Specificity