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Keywords:

  • Wrist;
  • Human;
  • Ape;
  • Functional morphology;
  • AUSTRALOPITHECUS;
  • Carpometacarpal joints

Abstract

The “squeeze” form of power grip is investigated for the purposes of clarifying the hand posture and activities associated with the grip, assessing the potential in chimpanzees for using the grip, and identifying morphological correlates of an effective power grip that may be recognized in fossil hominid species. Our approaches include: (1) the analysis of the human grip, focusing on both the hand posture involved and hand movements associated with use of the grip in hammering; (2) the analysis of similar chimpanzee grips and associated movements; (3) comparative functional analysis of regions in the hand exploited and stressed by the grip and its associated movements in humans; and (4) a review of the literature on the power grip and its morphological correlates. Results of the study indicate that humans use a squeeze form of power grip effectively to wield cylindrical tools forcefully as extensions of the forearm. Several morphological features occur in high frequency among humans which facilitate the grip and are consistent with the large internal and external forces associated with it in hammering and in other tool-using activities. Chimpanzee hand postures resembling this form of human power grip are not fully comparable and lack some of these morphological correlates that facilitate its use. The hand of Australopithecus afarensis does not appear to have been stressed by use of the grip, but there is some evidence for this type of stress in the metacarpals from Sterkfontein Member 4. Hands from Olduvai and Swartkrans do not provide sufficient evidence for assessment of power grip capabilities. © 1992 Wiley-Liss, Inc.