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Neanderthal Hands

June 22, 2011

Evidence from ancient teeth suggests that most Neanderthals were right-handed, like us.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

What the teeth say about the hands…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

The majority of Neanderthals, like modern humans, were right-handed. That’s the conclusion reached by University of Kansas anthropologist David Frayer and his colleagues after they examined Neanderthal teeth. He says our extinct cousins probably held meat in their teeth, pulling it away from themselves with one hand while using the other to cut it with stone tools. Sometimes the tools would slip, leaving scratch marks.

DAVID FRAYER (University of Kansas):

The marks that are done when an individual is pulling with the left and then cutting with the right hand run from the upper left to the bottom right of the tooth.

HIRSHON:

He says that 90% of the teeth they looked at had marks indicating right-handedness. Modern humans have the same ratio of right-hand dominance. It’s thought that the left side of the brain controls the right side of the body and also language, so the results support the controversial idea that Neanderthals may have been capable of speech. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.