Abstract: This paper presents an approach based on the evolution strategy for autonomous learning of dextrous manipulation primitives with a dextrous robot hand. We use heuristics derived from observations made on human hands to reduce the degrees of freedom of the task and make learning possible. Our system does not rely on simulation; all the experimentation is performed the 16-degree-of-freedom Utah/MIT hand. We present experimental results that show that accurate dextrous manipulation skills can be learned in a period of a few minutes. We also show the application of the learned primitives to perform an assembly task.