Evidence in Hand: Recent Discoveries and the Early Evolution of Human Manual Manipulation

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2015 Nov 19;370(1682):20150105. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2015.0105.


For several decades, it was largely assumed that stone tool use and production were abilities limited to the genus Homo. However, growing palaeontological and archaeological evidence, comparative extant primate studies, as well as results from methodological advancements in biomechanics and morphological analyses, have been gradually accumulating and now provide strong support for more advanced manual manipulative abilities and tool-related behaviours in pre-Homo hominins than has been traditionally recognized. Here, I review the fossil evidence related to early hominin dexterity, including the recent discoveries of relatively complete early hominin hand skeletons, and new methodologies that are providing a more holistic interpretation of hand function, and insight into how our early ancestors may have balanced the functional requirements of both arboreal locomotion and tool-related behaviours.

Keywords: Australopithecus; Homo; arboreal locomotion; dexterity; tool use.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Archaeology
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Fossils
  • Hand / anatomy & histology*
  • Hand / physiology*
  • Hominidae / anatomy & histology*
  • Hominidae / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Paleontology
  • Primates
  • Tool Use Behavior