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Journal Article

Manual laterality and cognition through evolution: An archeological perspective


Uomini,  Natalie
Linguistic and Cultural Evolution, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

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Uomini, N., & Ruck, L. (2018). Manual laterality and cognition through evolution: An archeological perspective. Progress in Brain Research, 238, 295-323. doi:10.1016/bs.pbr.2018.06.015.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0002-9AE8-B
To understand the evolution of lateralized motor biases and cognitive functions, we rely on archeological methods to give us a window onto the past. Currently, the overwhelming majority of prehistoric data on asymmetry and laterality concern only the hominin lineage, spanning the time period from the presumed evolutionary split with the other great apes around 6–8 million years ago until the present day. We present an overview of these data from paleontology and archeology. Lateralized motor biases and anatomical asymmetries are evident throughout prehistory, showing increases in the predominance of right-handedness over time. Laterality was a key feature of the motor-cognitive development of extinct human ancestors. However, further research in living humans is needed to resolve the extent of colateralization of functions in the human brain, so we urge caution when inferring functional cognitive laterality from behavioral markers of handedness.