Evolution of the human hand: the role of throwing and clubbing

J Anat. 2003 Jan;202(1):165-74. doi: 10.1046/j.1469-7580.2003.00144.x.


It has been proposed that the hominid lineage began when a group of chimpanzee-like apes began to throw rocks and swing clubs at adversaries, and that this behaviour yielded reproductive advantages for millions of years, driving natural selection for improved throwing and clubbing prowess. This assertion leads to the prediction that the human hand should be adapted for throwing and clubbing, a topic that is explored in the following report. It is shown that the two fundamental human handgrips, first identified by J. R. Napier, and named by him the 'precision grip' and 'power grip', represent a throwing grip and a clubbing grip, thereby providing an evolutionary explanation for the two unique grips, and the extensive anatomical remodelling of the hand that made them possible. These results are supported by palaeoanthropological evidence.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Animals
  • Behavior*
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Hand / anatomy & histology*
  • Hand / physiology
  • Hand Strength / physiology
  • Hominidae*
  • Humans
  • Paleontology
  • Pan troglodytes / anatomy & histology