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Can Handedness be Determined from Skeletal Remains? A Chronological Review of the Literature


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Douglas H. Ubelaker, Ph.D.
Department of Anthropology
Smithsonian Institution
Washington, DC 20560-0112


Abstract:  Research indicates that considerable bilateral asymmetry exists in the skeletons of primates, including humans. The published literature suggests that although this asymmetry may be influenced by handedness, it reflects other factors as well. Although exact statistics of handedness in the modern population are not available because definitions of handedness vary greatly, it is known that we live in a predominantly right-handed world. This knowledge makes the determination of handedness in forensic cases not as paramount in importance as other determinations. Review of the published scientific evidence clearly reveals that observations and measurements of the human skeleton cannot determine handedness with the degree of confidence needed for forensic applications.

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