What is the origin of applause?
You asked us, what is the origin of applause?
Well, it's impossible to know exactly when people first started clapping. It's definitely an ancient and widespread behavior though. It had certainly caught on by the time of the Roman Empire. That's when crowds would clap, snap and wave the edge of their togas. It would let rulers know exactly where things stood.
Some of those rulers weren't above hiring professionals either. There were people who literally clapped for their dinner to manipulate crowd reactions.
Speaking of trained monkeys, we're not the only species that put our hands together. Other great apes like gorillas, chimps and orangutans sometimes clap their hands to draw attention.
But applause -- clapping as a sign of approval or joy -- is actually a learned behavior. And for the most part, it seems to be limited to humans.
Bravo to us humans. For more stories like this, check us out every day at Smithsonian.com.