Sunday, December 06, 2015

The Chimpanzee Stone Age has Begun

In the rainforests of west Africa, the woodlands of Brazil and the beaches of Thailand, archaeologists have unearthed some truly remarkable stone tools.

It's not the workmanship that makes them special. If anything, a casual observer might struggle to even identify them as ancient tools. It's not their antiquity that's exceptional either: they're only about the same age as the Egyptian pyramids.

What makes these tools noteworthy is that the hands that held them weren't human.

These stone tools were wielded by chimpanzees, capuchins and macaques. The sites where they have been unearthed are the basis of a brand new field of science: primate archaeology.

The tools are crude. A chimpanzee or monkey stone hammer is hardly a work of art to rival the beauty of an ancient human hand axe. But that's not the point. These primates have developed a culture that makes routine use of a stone-based technology. That means they have entered the Stone Age.

The question is whether or not the stone tools have been worked or if they just stones picked up to be used.

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