Fwd: Report: chimps used simple tools 5 million years ago

From: Ray Recchia (rrecchia@mail.clarityconnect.com)
Date: Mon May 27 2002 - 08:20:36 BST

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    Date: Mon, 27 May 2002 03:20:36 -0400
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    From: Ray Recchia <rrecchia@mail.clarityconnect.com>
    Subject: Fwd: Report: chimps used simple tools 5 million years ago
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    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- An archaeological dig in West Africa has revealed
    evidence that chimpanzees used primitive tools as long as five million
    years ago, according to an international team of scientists.

    The evidence is in the form of 479 fragments of rudimentary stone hammers
    that the chimps used to crack open nuts at the close of what is known as
    the Miocene era, when Ice Age conditions cooled the planet, according to
    their report in this week's journal Science.

    The fragments -- found at a site in Tai National Park in the Ivory Coast --
    closely resemble similar tools used by hominid (pre-human) species about
    the same time, offering opportunities to learn more about the history of
    human tools as well as providing a rare look into how other primate species
    developed, the researchers said.
    "This introduces the possibility of tracing the development of at least one
    aspect of ape culture through time," said Julio Mercader, an archaeologist
    at the George Washington University In Washington, D.C.

    Mercader and GWU colleagues conducted the investigation with researchers
    from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig,

    The ancient chimps, similar to their modern-day counterparts, used sharp
    stone pieces to open nuts -- an important supplement to their diet of
    fruit, leaves, and insects. The chimps apparently placed the nuts on a tree
    root, using it as an "anvil" for the stone hammers.
    Concentrations of stone-tool fragments were found around ancient tree roots.
    The scientists said they will keep observating the habits of modern chimps
    in Tai National Park -- including their use of stone tools -- for evidence
    of change in chimp behavior since the five million-year-old stone tools
    were used. The study represents a rare departure for archaeologists, whose
    work almost always focuses on humans and their immediate ancestors.

    An unfortunate footnote to the research is that the modern chimps in Tai
    National Park are among the last in the nation of Ivory Coast. Victimized
    by deforestation, hunting and a serious 1995 outbreak of the ebola virus,
    only 750 chimps are thought to remain in the nation.

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