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J Hum Evol. 1998 Jul;35(1):23-46.

Hand function and tool behavior in early hominids.

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Department of Anatomical Sciences, School of Medicine, University of Stony Brook, NY 11794-8081, USA.


Prompted by the discovery of the Olduvai Hominid 7 hand (Homo habilis) in 1960, studies of primate hands were conducted in order to understand better the functional morphology of the earliest hominids and the evolution of tool behavior. Since Napier's work in the early 1960's, the hand bones of a number of other species have been recovered in East and South Africa. New hominid finds and a prolific archaeological record have broadened our perspective on the evolution of tool behavior in Australopithecus, Paranthropus, and early Homo. A debate is underway at this time on the questions of what exactly we can glean from the fossil record regarding the evolution of tool behavior and what are the best approaches to interpreting the evidence. I support the model of Napier that identified morphological correlates of precision and power grasping in the hands of extant primates and in early hominid hand bones. At the same time, I question both the underlying rationale and attempts to identify more subtle aspects of precision grasping, based on present evidence.

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