Received: by alpheratz.cpm.aca.mmu.ac.uk id OAA00402 (8.6.9/5.3[ref firstname.lastname@example.org] for cpm.aca.mmu.ac.uk from email@example.com); Mon, 27 May 2002 14:23:46 +0100 Message-Id: <firstname.lastname@example.org> X-Sender: email@example.com X-Mailer: QUALCOMM Windows Eudora Version 5.0.2 Date: Mon, 27 May 2002 03:20:36 -0400 To: Memetics@mmu.ac.uk From: Ray Recchia <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Fwd: Report: chimps used simple tools 5 million years ago Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"; format=flowed Sender: email@example.com Precedence: bulk Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org
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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