Patterns of humeral asymmetry among Late Pleistocene humans


en Comptes Rendus Palevol 16 (5-6) - Pages 680-689

Published on 30 September 2017

This article is a part of the thematic issue Hominin biomechanics, virtual anatomy and inner structural morphology: From head to toe. A tribute to Laurent Puymerail

Human humeral diaphyseal asymmetry in midshaft and mid-distal rigidity is assessed through the Late Pleistocene in samples of late archaic (Neandertal) and early modern humans. It is considered with respect to directionality (handedness), levels of asymmetry, body size and sexual differences. The overall Late Pleistocene sample indicates a right-handed preference in frequencies (right: 74.8%, left: 15.0%, ambiguous: 10.3%), which are similar to those of recent human samples. Average levels of humeral asymmetry are elevated relative to Holocene samples through all but the small Middle Paleolithic modern human and eastern Eurasian late Upper Paleolithic samples. Humeral asymmetry is especially high among the males relative to the females, and the possibility of a division of labor between uni-manual tasks (mostly male) and bi-manual tasks (mostly female) is considered. At the same time, there is a general pattern of increased asymmetry with larger body size, but it remains unclear to what extent it reflects body size versus sexual effects on bilateral humeral loading. There do not appear to have been substantial changes in humeral asymmetry through time, indicating a continuity of similar manual behavioral patterns through the Late Pleistocene, despite considerable changes in technology through the Late Pleistocene.


Humerus, Neandertals, Modern humans, Cross-sectional geometry, Diaphysis

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