International Journal of Anthropology

, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 259–279 | Cite as

Modern human metrical variation in the first three manual rays

  • S. L. Smith


This study utilizes radiographic samples of white, black. Mexican-American, and Asian males and females from the Ten State Nutrition Survey to examine the degree and pattern of variation seen in measurements of bones from the three radial hand rays. Pattern profile analysis is used to portray graphically the intersample differences for 44 length and width variables. This technique allows a visual assessment of intersample differences and extends results of statistical analyses.

Base widths serve best in separating male and female groups. Males have a longer first ray with respect to the second ray and a longer first proximal phalanx compared with the second proximal phalanx than do females. Certain ray III variables seem to hold the most promise for separating samples within one sex. Correlation of pattern profile curves demonstrates that within nonwhite ethnic samples the shape of male and female curves is similar when plotted against the white reference samples. Coefficients of variation for the large white samples are highest for mid-widths and tuft widths of distal phalanges and lowest for lengths and base widths of proximal phalanges II and III. While some of the variation between groups may serve to distinguish populations and may relate broadly to evolutionary history, it is difficult to show clear functional correlates for the majority of the variation detected. It is suggested that hypotheses relating morphology of hominid hands to hand function and behavior should consider the extent of modern human hand bone variation.

Key words

hand bones anthropometry pattern profile analysis Ten State Nutrition Survey 


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Copyright information

© International Institute for the Study of Man 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. L. Smith
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Sociology and AnthropologyUniversity of Texas at ArlingtonArlingtonUSA

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