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Keywords:

  • hands;
  • Neandertals;
  • human paleontology

Abstract

Neandertal capitate-metacarpal 2 and 3 articulations have been observed to differ in orientation and shape from those of more recent humans. To evaluate this, we tested for differences in capitate-metacarpal 2 (MC2) and MC2-capitate facet orientations and MC2 and MC3 robusticity indices, and for multivariate shape equivalence of the capitate-MC2/MC3 facets and the MC3 diaphysis and styloid process between samples of Neandertals and recent humans. Canonical discriminant functions of log size-and-shape and log shape transformed measurements were run on variables of the capitate-MC2 and MC3 facets, and these plus MC3 diaphysis and styloid process variables.

The null hypothesis of shape equivalence is rejected for both variable sets. Modern human capitate-MC morphology results from nonallometric increases in distal capitate breadth and the projection of the MC3 styloid process, and reductions in MC2 facet height and MC3 facet breadth. These shape changes are associated with a significantly less parasagittal orientation of the capitate-MC2 facets in recent humans, but are only trivially correlated with MC 2 and 3 robusticity indices. The recent human capitate-MC 2 and 3 morphology may reflect a shift in habitual joint reaction forces from more axial to more oblique forces while maintaining similar pronation/supination of the MC2. However, the full behavioral implications of these contrasts remain unclear. Am J Phys Anthropol 103:219–233, 1997. © 1997 Wiley-Liss, Inc.