Research ArticleANTHROPOLOGY

Evidence for precision grasping in Neandertal daily activities

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Science Advances  26 Sep 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 9, eaat2369
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aat2369


Neandertal manual activities, as previously reconstructed from their robust hand skeletons, are thought to involve systematic power grasping rather than precise hand movements. However, this interpretation is at odds with increasing archeological evidence for sophisticated cultural behavior. We reevaluate the manipulative behaviors of Neandertals and early modern humans using a historical reference sample with extensive genealogical and lifelong occupational documentation, in combination with a new and precise three-dimensional multivariate analysis of hand muscle attachments. Results show that Neandertal muscle marking patterns overlap exclusively with documented lifelong precision workers, reflecting systematic precision grasping consistent with the use of their associated cultural remains. Our findings challenge the established interpretation of Neandertal behavior and establish a solid link between biological and cultural remains in the fossil record.

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