|MadSci Network: Evolution|
Judy: Unfortunately, as an archaeologist, I never get the chance to excavate human behavior in action-- but I'll share my thoughts re: the origin of hand-clapping anyway. By "hand-clapping", I'll assume that you are referring to applause. From a strictly functional and practical standpoint, there is no more convenient way to make oneself heard over a long distance, at a substantial volume, with more duration, than the hand-clap. Other applause options might include table-rapping, floor-stamping, whistling and shouting (see any American hockey game), but all involve more expenditures of energy, sore knuckles or eventual hoarseness. It's also something that nearly all people can do at the same volume. The origin of hand-clapping unrelated to applause is even more tenuous. I think we can assume that it may have been a way to generate sound and attract attention long before full-time bipedalism was the norm. Some theorize that bipedalism, symbolism, and general social organization grew from (among other things) the process of organized group hunting, and it's possible that the hand-clap evolved as a hunter-to-hunter signal. I hope this little bit of brainstorming helps you in your search for the answers! Daniel R. Pratt St. Paul, Minnesota
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