Neanderthal did not use his thumb like a modern human –

Neanderthal did not use his thumb like a modern human

Reconstruction of a Neanderthal man and woman.

Reconstruction of a Neanderthal man and woman.
Photo: Martin meissner (AP)

An analysis of Neanderthal hand bones suggests that these extinct humans have better thumbs for power grips, as opposed to precise grips, which may mean they use their hands differently from us.

Researchers have found significant physical differences between Neanderthal and modern humans’ thumbs (Homo sapiens), Which suggests that the two species used their hands in different ways. Search, as Described In scientific reports, potentially behavioral differences in the two species are discussed, although this can be difficult to prove.

Technically, Neanderthals were human, but exhibited some salient features that would make them stand out in a crowd if they were around today. Neanderthals were slightly shorter and thicker than early modern humans, and they had larger nostrils. He also had weak chins and prominent brow ridges. Their hands were also larger than ours, and as new research suggests, Neanderthal hands did not work in exactly the same way either of us.

“If you were to join hands with a Neanderthal, you would notice this difference,” explained post-doctoral research associate Emeline Bardo of the School of Anthropology and Conservation at the University of Kent. “Where there will be confusion for where to place the thumb, and for the fight of the thumb I think you will win in terms of speed and movement.”

good to know.

More practically, Neanderthal’s thumbs were better suited to the squeeze grip – the way we hold a hammer when we’re bringing it down. In particular, we use these power grips, as they also say, to hold tools or other objects between our fingers and palm, while the thumb is used for force. Neanderthals did not have hammers with handles, but these power grips were probably useful at the timeWhen holding stones to use as stone tools, or hammers.

At the same time, this probably means that the precise grip – in which objects are placed between the tip of the finger and thumb – may be more challenging for Neanderthals. Challenge, but not impossible. As contradictory The research From the 2018 show, Neanderthal implemented precise grip while doing manual work. However, new research suggests that precise gripping was not very comfortable for Neanderthals, and they may have been more inclined to power gripping. Unfortunately, we cannot travel back in time and see for ourselves, so it will likely remain a healthy debate between archaeologists and anthropologists for the foreseeable future.

He said, and as Bardo pointed out in his email, his “hand anatomy and archaeological record make clear that Neanderthals were very intelligent, sophisticated device users and used the same tools that contemporary modern humans did.” “

Previous research in this area has shown how Neanderthal thumb bones differed in relation to modern humans, but these bones were studied in isolation. Bardo and his colleagues tried to find out how the bones of the Neanderthal hand actually move through time and space, which they did by 3D mapping that mapped the joints between the bones responsible for thumb movements. .

In particular, researchers looked at the trapeziometacarpal complex. More specifically, he looked at the trapezium (the wrist bone at the base of the thumb) and the proximal end of the metacarpal (the first bone in the thumb that meets the wrist). They analyzed how changes in the shape or position of one bone affect the shape or position of another.

For analysis, scientists studied fossil remains of five Neanderthal individuals (usually a small sample size), which were compared to the bones of five early modern humans and 50 recent modern individuals. The results point to a “favored thumb position” in Neanderthal, which was different from our character.

As the new paper suggests, the Neanderthal joint is flatter than ours at the base of the thumb, and with a smaller contact surface. According to Bardo, “it is preferable to have an elongated thumb next to the hand,” which was beneficial for the use of some means, such as spears and scrapers — tools used for hunting. One disadvantage of Neanderthal anatomy is that it limits strong precision grips, such as using a small layer to cut meat, he explained.

In modern humans, these joint surfaces are more curved, which makes it better to hold objects between the finger and thumb pads, i.e. precise grip.

This variation between the two species is “likely a result of genetic and / or developmental differences, but may also reflect, in part, the functional requirements imposed by the use of various tool-kits,” Bardo explained. “In fact, the variation we have found between modern humans and Neanderthals may reflect different habitual activities within different species with their own hands.”

Again, we cannot know for sure, and this new paper will increase the likelihood of a debate on the matter.

What we can say, however, is that Neanderthals were successful for an extended period of time, appeared some 400,000 years ago, and went extinct about 45,000 years ago (and for reasons we still don’t really understand). . Neanderthals were also clever, because they made their own Jewelry, Designed Pictures in caves, Decorated with myself wing, And used lissoir-A special bone – to work through hard animal skins.

If the exact hold was hard for the Neanderthals, we certainly would not know it from the cultural archaeological record they left behind.


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