Ancient humans’ teeth show they were predominately right-handed

May 24th, 2009 - 12:26 pm ICT by ANI  

London, May 24 (ANI): Studying the teeth of an ancestor of Neanderthals, known as Homo heidelbergensis, a team of Spanish researchers have come to the conclusion that “lefties” have been coping with a right-handed world for more than half a million years.

Marina Mosquera, a paleoanthropologist at Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Tarragona, says that the study seems to suggest that the ancient humans were predominately right-handed.

“Finding that a hominin species as old as Homo heidelbergensis is already right-handed helps to trace back the chain of modernity concerning hand laterality,” New Scientist magazine quoted her as saying.

She says that the findings of her team’s study attain significance because determining when right-handedness first evolved may shed light on traits linked to lateralised brains, such as language and technology.

The researcher surmises that ancient humans probably used their teeth like a third hand, clenching onto meat and other objects to cut them with stone tools.

In the process, she adds, ancient humans might have grazed their incisors, creating diagonal marks.

Mosquera says that to ensure the safety of their noses, ancient humans probably moved their blade in a downward motion, causing right-handers to make tooth marks in one direction, left-handers in another.

She and her colleagues confirmed this bias by having some of their left and right-handed assistants to simulate the process while wearing mouth guards.

The research team later analysed 592 cut marks on 163 teeth found at Sima de los Huesos cave in northern Spain, which has produced a trove of Homo heidelbergensis remains.

Mosquera revealed that the vast majority of the marks looked to be made by right-handers.

She further revealed that 15 of the 19 individuals, to whom the teeth belonged, seemed to be right-handed.

She said that four individuals’ teeth contained mostly vertical marks, and thus could not be interpreted.

A research article on her team’s findings has been published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior. (ANI)

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