Neanderthals and their likely ancestors were overwhelmingly right-handed, according to investigation into fossilized teeth excavated in Spanish and other European caves.
Writing in the British journal Laterality, an international team of researchers has concluded that right-handedness, a uniquely human trait that has right-handers outnumbering lefties nine-to-one, was the dominate pattern as far back as a half million years ago.
Various researchers have attempted to determine when right-handedness first evolved by analyzing ancient tools, prehistoric art and human bones.
However, the results have not been definitive.
“We found that the best evidence comes from teeth,” David Frayer, professor of anthropology at the University of Kansas, told Discovery News.
Frayer and colleagues examined fossilized teeth from a more than 500,000-year-old chamber known as Sima de los Huesos near Burgos, Spain.
Excavated over the past quarter century, the cave has produced a trove of human remains believed to be the ancestors of European Neanderthals.
The researchers investigated the incisor and canine teeth of 12 individuals whose estimated age ranged from 9.5 years to more than 35 years.
Neandertals from Krapina and Vindija (Croatia) and sites in France comprised the Neandertal sample, dated from 130,000 to about 30,000 years ago.
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