Did Fist-Fighting Shape The Human Hand?

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.


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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. (0:39)

  • 2

    Humans are the only animals that form a clenched fist to fight. (1:16)

  • 3

    Because it delivers force with a smaller concentrated surface area, a punch does more damage than a slap or a chop. (1:47)

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