The Physical Characteristics of Humans
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Hands

As in the case of the foot, the human hand is a modification of basic primate anatomy. The human thumb is longer than that of the chimp or gorilla and is positioned slightly more away from the plane of the other four fingers, so that thumb and fingers are "opposable." That is, the thumb can be rotated against the fingers, allowing us to grasp objects both large and small efficiently. This slight anatomical adaptation creates an enormous range of functions which humans have and apes do not; it gives us both a precision and a power grip. The range of activities engaged in by human hands which is permitted by this anatomical modification is huge: balled into a fist, the hand is a lethal weapon; it can grasp a hand-ax or spear; it can fashion needles and thread; it can soothe an infant; paint a masterpiece or play one on a piano or violin.


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