EMG study of hand muscle recruitment during hard hammer percussion manufacture of Oldowan tools

Am J Phys Anthropol. 1998 Mar;105(3):315-32. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1096-8644(199803)105:3<315::AID-AJPA3>3.0.CO;2-Q.


The activity of 17 hand muscles was monitored by electromyography (EMG) in three subjects during hard hammer percussion manufacture of Oldowan tools. Two of the subjects were archaeologists experienced in the replication of prehistoric stone tools. Simultaneous videotapes recorded grips associated with the muscle activities. The purpose of the study was to identify the muscles most likely to have been strongly and repeatedly recruited by early hominids during stone tool-making. This information is fundamental to the identification of skeletal features that may reliably predict tool-making capabilities in early hominids. The muscles most frequently recruited at high force levels for strong precision pinch grips required to control the hammerstone and core are the intrinsic muscles of the fifth finger and the thumb/index finger regions. A productive search for skeletal evidence of habitual Oldowan tool-making behavior will therefore be in the regions of the hand stressed by these intrinsic muscles and in the joint configurations affecting the relative lengths of their moment arms.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anthropology, Physical
  • Bone and Bones / anatomy & histology*
  • Electromyography
  • Fingers / anatomy & histology
  • Fossils
  • Hand
  • Hominidae / anatomy & histology*
  • Humans
  • Motor Skills
  • Muscle, Skeletal / anatomy & histology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Thumb / anatomy & histology