Back to the Fingerprints

Batya Rexamines What the Ridges on Our Fingers Do

Palm diagram

Let’s go back to your fingertips.

By now, dear reader, you are already aware of the idea that peacock feathers can provide you protection from life-threatening circumstances. I discussed this phenomenon in a previous column.

And, you might also already know that the round concentric circles on your fingertips are called whorls, and that these signify remarkable intelligence (see “Neutopia’s Palms,” September 14, 2007).

Tracing the ridges on the fingers in this way has been inspiring humanity since the Neolithic Age. Some scholars argue that people of pre-historic times carved the walls of burial passages and that such hieroglyphics, some speculate, represented the fingerprints of those chieftains buried within.

According to Fred Gettings’ Book of the Hand, the Chinese have used fingerprints for identification purposes for centuries. It wasn’t until the 17th century that the West first tried to catch up. By then, Grew, Bidloo, and Malpighi had initiated this aspect of Western practices.

Medical and morphological experts call study of the finger prints “dermatoglyphics.” Giddings tells us that the ridges palmists read act as secretion channels for sweat. Anatomical in function, these channels also assist in gripping by providing roughness to the fingers’ surfaces. Furthermore, those tiny ridges heighten tactile sensitivity, which aids in music-making, among other activities. Can you imagine playing piano without really getting into the feel of those sweet ivory keys? Playing on plastic Casio keys has never really been the same thing – for me at least.

What it’s crucial to know, especially if you’re a cat burglar, is that no two fingerprint patterns have ever been found to be exactly alike. So wear gloves, please.

Our fingertips develop their ridges long before birth, and are fully formed by the fourth and half month of pregnancy. Throughout life they stay the same, though the ridges thicken and become less sensitive over the years. But other than that, they never do alter.

Even if you try to graft skin onto your fingertips after a robbery, if you forgot your gloves, the police can identify you by the lines on the second phalange, inside your second knuckle, on any finger.

So beware! I don’t want any of my column readers to go to jail.

Batya Weinbaum reads palms over the email and you can also mail her your Xeroxes and get a reading over the phone. Call 216-233-0567 to arrange yours.


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