Those Ancient Handshakers Knew Their Stuff

Monument of KalhuAssyrian King Shalmaneser III and Marduk-zakir-šumi I of Babylon - those two guys, they had it going on.

Their grasp of hands in friendship in the 8th century BC was memorialized in stone and stands at the first documented case of a handshake. Humans were probably shaking hands long before then and have long since continued in what may have started as a ritual to show no weapons were being carried in the right hand. Today, almost every country has some form of handshaking ritual deeply embedded in its culture.


Today, amidst concerns about transmission of germs from person to person, the handshake has been taking hits. Naysayers - from Donald Trump to U.K. biochemist David Whitworth - concern over the unhealthy aspects of this show of trust and friendship are being voiced. 

Whitworth conducted tests released in the American Journal of Infection Control comparing the handshake, fist bump and high five as greetings. The e. coli bacteria applied to gloves on hands in the handshaking tests was transferred 10 times more readily than the fist bump and twice that of the high five. (Low, too slow, didn't seem to get much serious consideration.)


Gojo Industries has suggested the handshake is not likely to go away, nor perhaps should it. In fact, their light-hearted Shake Your Way to $5K contest challenges college students to make a 15-second video of their creative or secret handshake.  


Like other facets of life that require some hygiene responses or adaptions, handshaking risks can be taken care of pretty well with good hygiene habits: 

  • Handwashing or hand sanitizing before activities like eating
  • Periodic, thorough handwashing for 20 seconds or more several times throughout the day
  • Sanitizing opportunities made available in areas where people meet and greet or should otherwise care for their hands:

Meeting rooms
Restaurant lines
Dining halls