A new  study from the University of Utah suggests that the size and shape of the human hand may have evolved for fighting… with bare fists!

Human hands built the Taj Mahal and adorned the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel with glorious art – but they also evolved for fighting, according to a new theory.

New evidence suggests it was not just dexterity that shaped the human hand, violence may have been involved also. The scientist claim that hands may have evolved through natural selection to form a punching fist:

“The role aggression has played in our evolution has not been adequately appreciated,” said Professor David Carrier, from the University of Utah.

FULL STORY: The Telegraph


The video ‘Evolution of the human hand’ – presents a detailed picture of how modern science perceives the evolution of the human hand in time. The video is sort of based on Darwin’s evolution theory, but the details were delevered by experts in anthropology who studied how the hand shape, finger length & palmar creases evolved during the past 1.8 million years.

The video demonstrates how the ‘early’ humanoid hands (and primates) are typically featured with 3 or more ‘complete transverse creases’ (multiple simian lines), which are positioned horizontal in the hand + two major vertical lines. While at the end of the video displays a typical human hand featured with only 2 curved, oblique positioned ‘primary palmar creases’ (heart line and head line) + one major vertical line (life line).

And the differences between the human hand and the hands of primates served as a model for the evolution of the human hand in time – see below the hands of a man compared to the hands of a baboon, orangutang & chimpanzee.

Many other fascinating details about the evolution of the human hand are described in the work of physician John Napier, titled: Hands.

Another important figure in the history of medical science was the Scottish surgeon John Hunter, who turned the attention of science from the structure of hands to it’s function:

“Structure is the intimate expression of function”

– John Hunter, Scottish surgeon (1728-1793) –

More details about the evolution of other features of the human hand are presented in the articles:

1) The evolution & mystery of the five fingers

2) The history & evolution of the palmar lines

The hand of early hominids (30.000 years old).

The hand of Neanderthals (300.000 years old).

The hand of 'Ardi' (4.4 million years old).

Stone tools influenced hand evolution in human ancestors.

KENT, MARCH 2011 –  New research from anthropologists at the University of Kent has confirmed Charles Darwin’s speculation that the evolution of unique features in the human hand was influenced by increased tool use in our ancestors.

Research over the last century has certainly confirmed the existence of a suite of features in the bones and musculature of the human hand and wrist associated with specific gripping and manipulatory capabilities that are different from those of other extant great apes. These features have fuelled suggestions that, at some point since humans split from the last common ancestor of living apes, the human hand evolved away from features adapted for locomotion toward alternative functions.

Now, researchers Dr Stephen Lycett and Alastair Key have shown that the hands of our ancestors may have been subject to natural selection as a result of using simple cutting tools. In a series of experiments that used stone flakes similar to those known from Africa around 2.6 million years ago, they analysed whether variation in the hand size of individual tool users reflects differences that affect the efficiency of these simple tools to cut through a rope.

Their results, published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, show that ‘biometric’ variation did indeed result in a significant relationship with cutting efficiency in the experimental task.

Hands holding stones: dexterity of the wrist joints, of the hands and fingers, enabled early humans to create and use stone tools - which had an important rule in the evolution of human civilization.

Dr Lycett, Senior Lecturer in Human Evolution at the University’s School of Anthropology and Conservation, explained: ‘140 years ago, writing from his home at Down House in Kent, Darwin proposed that the use of stone tools may have influenced the evolution of human hands.

‘Our research suggests that he was correct. From a very early stage in our evolution, the cultural behaviour of our ancestors was influencing biological evolution in specific ways.’

Star Wars episode V - Luke Skywalker's prosthetic hand.Luke Skywalker from Star Wars.

BIONIC HANDS – From Luke Skywalker (Star Wars) to the first prosthetic hand!

What appeared to be science fiction in 1980 when Luke Skywalker’s “prosthetic hand” was introduced in Star Wars episode V (‘The Empire strikes Back’), has in the 21th century definitely become reality. For, in 2008 Time Magazine included the ‘bionic hand’ in the list of best inventions!

The article presents an overview of the milestones in the developments of various ‘bionic hands’ – what could become the ‘NEXT NATURE’ version of the human hand! A review of how disabled people in time were able to become a ‘bionic man’ or ‘bionic woman’!

NOTICE: The concept ‘Next Nature‘ – introduced by sciene philosopher Koert van Mensvoort – is described as follows:

“Next nature is the nature caused by human culture. That may sound like a contradiction, but really, it isn’t. Our technological world has become so intricate and uncontrollable that it has become a nature of its own. This means we have to re-investigate our notion of nature.”


BIONIC HANDS: From Luke Skywalker to Time’s 2008 best inventions!
A new milestone for the bionic hand (2007)
Evolution of the 5 fingers in the human hand!
The man who grew a finger!
More ‘evolutionary’ hand reports!

Primate hands: the hand of a macaque!

Primate hands: the hand of a macaque!

‘Whorls’ are a common features in the hands of many primate species!

What are the major differences between the hands of primate species and the human?

• 1 – Primates usually have a shorter thumb than humans – the thumb of the macaque (see photo on the left) does not rearch out behond the distal border of the handpalm.

• 2 – Primates usually have a lower ‘2D:4D digit ratio’ than humans – the hand of the macaque is featured with a much longer ring finger (digit 4) than the pointer finger (digit 2).

• 3 – Primates usually have more fingerprint- and palmar whorls than humans – the hand of the macaque is featured with 5 palmar whorls.

• 4 – Primates always have a lower ‘ridge density’ than humans.

• 5 – Primates usually have (various) palmar transversal creases, a.k.a. ‘simian lines’ – the hand of the macaque has one ‘simian line’.

The Monkey Palmist!
Fingerprints, toeprints, and … tailprints?
Understanding our past: the human hand vs. the primate hand!
Hands in the perspective of evolution!
Weird stories about hands & evolution!

PHOTO: Impression from the back of the hand of a macaque:
Impression from the back of the hand of a macaque.

The International Behavioral & Medical Biometrics Society.

The IBMBS presents the 4th biometrics conference in 2009!

One of the side-effects of extremist muslim terrorism appears to be that the budgets for biometric investments keep growing each year – merely because ‘identity’ and ‘security’ have become major themes in all societies around the world. Let’s take a look at the most important aspects of biometry that are related to the human hand.

Jean-François Mainguet presents on his website an overview of 20 types of biometrics. The following 5 aspects of the hand play a significant role in modern biometrics:

Fingerprints play an important role in biometrics!


Hand / finger geometry is a minor issue in the field of biometrics.

Hand / finger geometry

Hand vein / vascular pattern biometry is becoming more important!

Vein / vascular pattern

Nail features is a minor aspect in biometry.


Some additional aspects of the hand (and the use of the hand) that relate to biometric research are: handwriting, hand tapping, knuckle creases, hand pressure profile, finger wrinkles, and 3D finger surface.

The following 2 sources present some info about upcomming biometric events:
Biometric events in 2009
The 4th conference of the International Behavioral & Medical Biometrics Society

Hands: a journey around the world - By Basil Pao, Michael Palin.

Hands: A Journey Around the World

Basil Pao, the photographer of the hands in the book, has accompanied Palin on all his journeys around the world for television between 1991 and 2006. The book includes an eloquent and revealing series of photo essays from more than 45 countries in the world, all of which focus on the human hand!

Basil Pao crops in tight on the hand – painting hands, writing hands, stitching hands, cooking hands, dancing hands – young hands and arthritic hands – a hand holding a dove, another holstering a gun. Palin perhaps overstates the case a little in suggesting that hands & fingers can be “as expressive as faces”, but nevertheless all hands do tell tales about their owners!

One reviewer of the book described: “I found myself flicking backwards and forwards between the immaculately painted nails of a young Russian woman and the chomped fingers of an Aussie crocodile farmer.”

Michael Palin writes in the foreword

“In our Western obsession with faces we have forgotten how characterful hands can be.”

Perhaps… a handy Christmas Gift?


This blog is an attempt to bring the most interesting & innovating news about the human hand to the world.

Over the past months I have collected a growing database of ‘hand-facts’ (reported worldwide), and now the time has arrived to present these wonderful news about hands to the world!

Hand Facts: what can you expect to learn about hands? This blog will likely be updated on a daily basis. Sometimes the content will be related to a very specific (small) aspect of the human hand – such as: fingerprints (dermatoglyphics), fingernails & other specific hand features – but often the focuss will be pointed at an aspect of the hand which are relates to how we use our hands in daily life!

I hope you will enjoy my ‘hand facts’-trip – focussed on the wonderfull + fascinating aspects of your hand!

Martijn van Mensvoort, MSc.