Hominins evolved a strong grip similar to modern human hands at least 500,000 years ago, reveals a study of ancient stone tools. The findings demonstrated that without the ability to perform highly forceful precision grips, our ancestors would not have been able to produce advanced types of stone tools like spear points. The technique involves preparing a striking area on a tool to remove specific stone flakes and shape the tool into a pre-conceived design.
This research is the first to link a stone tool production technique known as “platform preparation” to the biology of human hands, said researchers from Britain’s University of Kent. Platform preparation is essential for making many different types of advanced prehistoric stone tool, with the earliest known occurrence observed at the 500,000-year-old site of Boxgrove in West Sussex (UK).
The research demonstrates that the Boxgrove hominins (early humans) would have needed significantly stronger grips compared to earlier populations who did not perform this behavior. It further suggests that highly modified and shaped stone tools, such as the handaxes, discovered at Boxgrove and stone spear points found in later prehistory, may not have been possible to produce until humans evolved the ability to perform particularly forceful grips, the researchers said