Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Right-handedness prevailed 500,000 years ago

Date:
April 20, 2011
Source:
University of Kansas
Summary:
Markings on fossilized front teeth show that right-handedness goes back a half-million years in the human family.

New research shows that distinctive markings on fossilized teeth correlate to the right or left-handedness of individual prehistoric humans.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of Kansas

Right-handedness is a distinctively human characteristic, with right-handers outnumbering lefties nine-to-one. But how far back does right-handedness reach in the human story? Researchers have tried to determine the answer by looking at ancient tools, prehistoric art and human bones, but the results have not been definitive.

Now, David Frayer, professor of anthropology at the University of Kansas, has used markings on fossilized front teeth to show that right-handedness goes back more than 500,000 years. He is the lead author (with colleagues in Croatia, Italy and Spain) of a paper published this month in the British journal Laterality.

His research shows that distinctive markings on fossilized teeth correlate to the right or left-handedness of individual prehistoric humans.

"The patterns seen on the fossil teeth are directly and consistently produced by right or left hand manipulation in experimental work," Frayer said.

The oldest teeth come from a more than 500,000-year-old chamber known as Sima de los Huesos near Burgos, Spain, containing the remains of humans believed to be ancestors of European Neandertals. Other teeth studied by Frayer come from later Neandertal populations in Europe.

"These marks were produced when a stone tool was accidentally dragged across the labial face in an activity performed at the front of the mouth," said Frayer. "The heavy scoring on some of the teeth indicates the marks were produced over the lifetime of the individual and are not the result of a single cutting episode."

Overall, Frayer and his co-authors found right-handedness in 93.1 percent of individuals sampled from the Sima de los Huesos and European Neandertal sites.

"It is difficult to interpret these fossil data in any way other than that laterality was established early in European fossil record and continued through the Neandertals," said Frayer. "This establishes that handedness is found in more than just recent Homo sapiens."

Frayer said that his findings on right-handedness have implications for understanding the language capacity of ancient populations, because language is primarily located on the left side of the brain, which controls the right side of the body, there is a right handedness-language connection.

"The general correlation between handedness and brain laterality shows that human brains were lateralized in a 'modern' way by at least half a million years ago and the pattern has not changed since then," he said. "There is no reason to suspect this pattern does not extend deeper into the past and that language has ancient, not recent, roots."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Kansas. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. David Frayer, Marina Lozano, Jose Bermudez de Castro, Eudald Carbonell, Juan Luis Arsuaga, Jakov Radovcic, Ivana Fiore, Luca Bondioli. More than 500,000 years of right-handedness in Europe. Laterality: Asymmetries of Body, Brain and Cognition, 2011; 1 DOI: 10.1080/1357650X.2010.529451

Cite This Page:

University of Kansas. "Right-handedness prevailed 500,000 years ago." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 April 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110419131543.htm>.
University of Kansas. (2011, April 20). Right-handedness prevailed 500,000 years ago. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110419131543.htm
University of Kansas. "Right-handedness prevailed 500,000 years ago." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110419131543.htm (accessed September 16, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Explore Shipwrecks Off Calif. Coast

Researchers Explore Shipwrecks Off Calif. Coast

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) — Federal researchers are exploring more than a dozen underwater sites where they believe ships sank in the treacherous waters west of San Francisco in the decades following the Gold Rush. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Museum Traces Fragments of Star-Spangled Banner

Museum Traces Fragments of Star-Spangled Banner

AP (Sep. 12, 2014) — As the Star-Spangled Banner celebrates its bicentennial, Smithsonian curators are still uncovering fragments of the original flag that inspired Francis Scott Key's poem. (Sept. 12) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Spinosaurus Could Be First Semi-Aquatic Dinosaur

Spinosaurus Could Be First Semi-Aquatic Dinosaur

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) — New research has shown that the Spinosaurus, the largest carnivorous dinosaur, might have been just as well suited for life in the water as on land. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Meet Spinosaurus, the First-Known Water Dinosaur

Meet Spinosaurus, the First-Known Water Dinosaur

AFP (Sep. 11, 2014) — Spinosaurus aegyptiacus was adapted for both land and water, and an exhibit featuring a life-sized model, based on new fossils unearthed in eastern Morocco, opens at the National Geographic Museum in Washington on Friday. Duration: 01:02 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:  

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile iPhone Android Web
    Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins