Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Neandertal's right-handedness verified, hints at language capacity

Date:
August 27, 2012
Source:
University of Kansas
Summary:
There are precious few Neandertal skeletons available to science. One of the more complete was discovered in 1957 in France, roughly 900 yards away from the famous Lascaux Cave. That skeleton was dubbed "Regourdou." Then, about two decades ago, researchers examined Regourdou's arm bones and theorized that he had been right-handed.

Scratch marks on the teeth from the Neandertal skeleton Regourdou.
Credit: Volpato et al, Hand to Mouth in a Neandertal: Right-Handedness in Regourdou 1. PLoS ONE, 2012; 7 (8): e43949 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0043949

There are precious few Neandertal skeletons available to science. One of the more complete was discovered in 1957 in France, roughly 900 yards away from the famous Lascaux Cave. That skeleton was dubbed "Regourdou." Then, about two decades ago, researchers examined Regourdou's arm bones and theorized that he had been right-handed.

"This skeleton had a mandible and parts of the skeleton below the neck," said David Frayer, professor of anthropology at the University of Kansas. "Twenty-plus years ago, some people studied the skeleton and argued that it was a right-handed individual based on the muscularity of the right arm versus the left arm."

Handedness, a uniquely human trait, signals brain lateralization, where each of the brain's two hemispheres is specialized. The left brain controls the right side of the body and in a human plays a primary role for language. So, if Neandertals were primarily right-handed, like modern humans, that fact could suggest a capacity for language.

Now, a new investigation by Frayer and an international team led by Virginie Volpato of the Senckenberg Institute in Frankfurt, Germany, has confirmed Regourdou's right-handedness by looking more closely at the robustness of the arms and shoulders, and comparing it with scratches on his teeth. Their findings are published August 23 in the journal PLoS ONE.

"We've been studying scratch marks on Neandertal teeth, but in all cases they were isolated teeth, or teeth in mandibles not directly associated with skeletal material," said Frayer. "This is the first time we can check the pattern that's seen in the teeth with the pattern that's seen in the arms. We did more sophisticated analysis of the arms -- the collarbone, the humerus, the radius and the ulna -- because we have them on both sides. And we looked at cortical thickness and other biomechanical measurements. All of them confirmed that everything was more robust on the right side then the left."

Frayer said Neandertals used their mouths like a "third hand" and that produced more wear and tear on the front teeth than their back ones. "It's long been known the Neandertals had been heavily processing things with their incisors and canines," he said.

Frayer's research on Regourdou's teeth confirmed the individual's right-handedness.

"We looked at the cut marks on the lower incisors and canines," said the KU researcher. "The marks that are on the lip side of the incisor teeth are oblique, or angled in such away that it indicates they were gripping with the left hand and cutting with the right, and every now and then they'd hit the teeth and leave these scratch marks that were there for the life of the individual."

Frayer said that the research on Regourdou shows that 89 percent of European Neandertal fossils (16 of 18) showed clear preference for their right hands. This is very similar to the prevalence of right-handers in modern human populations -- about 90 percent of people alive today favor their right hands.

Frayer and his co-authors conclude that such ratios suggest a Neandertal capacity for language.

"The long-known connection between brain asymmetry, handedness and language in living populations serves as a proxy for estimating brain lateralization in the fossil record and the likelihood of language capacity in fossils," they write.


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. Virginie Volpato, Roberto Macchiarelli, Debbie Guatelli-Steinberg, Ivana Fiore, Luca Bondioli, David W. Frayer. Hand to Mouth in a Neandertal: Right-Handedness in Regourdou 1. PLoS ONE, 2012; 7 (8): e43949 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0043949

Cite This Page:

University of Kansas. "Neandertal's right-handedness verified, hints at language capacity." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 August 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120827160825.htm>.
University of Kansas. (2012, August 27). Neandertal's right-handedness verified, hints at language capacity. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120827160825.htm
University of Kansas. "Neandertal's right-handedness verified, hints at language capacity." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120827160825.htm (accessed July 29, 2014).

Share This




More Fossils & Ruins News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Newsy (July 28, 2014) The asteroid that killed the dinosaurs struck at the worst time for them. A new study says that if it hit earlier or later, they might've survived. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Did ISIS Destroy Jonah's Tomb?

Did ISIS Destroy Jonah's Tomb?

Newsy (July 25, 2014) Unverified footage posted to YouTube purportedly shows ISIS militants destroying a shrine widely believed to be the tomb of the prophet Jonah. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Europe's Highest Train Turns 80 in French Pyrenees

Europe's Highest Train Turns 80 in French Pyrenees

AFP (July 25, 2014) Europe's highest train, the little train of Artouste in the French Pyrenees, celebrates its 80th birthday. Duration: 01:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Richard III's Car Park Burial Site Opens to Public

Richard III's Car Park Burial Site Opens to Public

AFP (July 25, 2014) Visitors will be able to look down from a glass walkway on the grave of King Richard III when a new centre opens in the English cathedral city of Leicester, where the infamous hunchback was found under a car park in 2012. Duration: 00:35 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