In fact, hand drums are probably the earliest musical instrument known to man - aside from the human voice. Hand drums are indigenous to every culture and ethnicity on the planet, and they are well worth a decent amount of study and practice.
Here are just a few:
- Conga (pronounced "conguh" unless you're a purist, then it's "coonguh")
- Bongo ("bahn-go")
- Djembe ("jem-bay")
- Doumbek ("doom-beck")
- Tabla ("tah-blah")
Many hand drums are available in a traditional format (such as rope-tuned) or with modern technology (such as key-tuned). One notable adaptation is LP's (Latin Percussion) "Compact Conga" that is stand-mounted, and playable with hands or sticks.
As with other topics, there is no way I can give even the most cursory introduction to hand drumming in just one post, so hopefully this will just be a jumping off point for you. Try Google searching any of the drums above or just "hand drums," and you'll find a wealth of information - including where to find them and how to start playing.
For now, I'll let one some my favorite musicians give you a quick introduction.
*That being said, I just bought an Ashiko drum off a local classified ad. For $30 plus the cost of a new head (and some elbow grease), I've got a drum that's worth somewhere north of $150. Nice!