Did Fist-Fighting Shape The Human Hand?

Dr. David Carrier has championed this theory of human-hand evolution, also known as the pugilism hypothesis. He believes that, because hand-to-hand combat would have been an important factor in survival and procuring mates for early humans, fist-fighting could have driven the evolution of the human hand. One of his studies used cadaver arms to show that a clenched fist puts less strain on the bones in the hand when punching, as compared to a loose fist and an open-handed slap. The results showed that a tight fist could deliver 55% more force than a loose fist, and twice as much force as a slap, while reducing strain on the metacarpal bones.

Key Facts In This Video

  1. Compared to gorillas, humans have shorter palms and fingers, and longer, stronger thumbs that allow for more manual dexterity. 00:39

  2. Humans are the only animals that form a clenched fist to fight. 01:16

  3. Because it delivers force with a smaller concentrated surface area, a punch does more damage than a slap or a chop. 01:47

Written by Curiosity Staff October 26, 2015

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