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

From: Ray Recchia (
Date: Mon May 27 2002 - 17:33:21 BST

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    Date: Mon, 27 May 2002 12:33:21 -0400
    From: Ray Recchia <>
    Subject: RE: Report: chimps used simple tools 5 million years ago
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    Hey Vincent,

    I won't get a chance to look at the actual Science article till this
    weekend (I'm an attorney living in rural upstate New York. Perhaps you
    quicker access?) Bout six months I mentioned some articles that discuss
    chimpanzee nut cracking as it has been presently observed. Based upon what
    they described I'm guessing that the stones were chipped in a pattern
    consistent with modern nut cracking, that they were too heavy for humans to
    have used effectively in that fashion, and that some actual chimp skeletons
    were found nearby to date the whole thing.

    When I brought it up previously I think Wade asked whether perhaps the
    chimps had picked it up from humans. It couldn't have been ruled out, but
    the difference in tool size suggested that the chimps at least had the
    intelligence to modify something they observed humans doing. Based on what
    CNN is reporting was in the 'Science' article chimpanzees would have had to
    have picked it from 'ardipithecus ramidus' (no I'm not that good. I had to
    look it up.) Perhaps primitive tool use started with the common ancestor
    of chimpanzees and humans.

    At 02:57 PM 5/27/2002 +0100, you wrote:
    >Nice piece. Reminds me of something I heard an archaeologist once say about
    >digging, which goes something like 'one stone's a stone, two stones are a
    >wall, three stones are a building, and four stones are a palace'. Isn't
    >there an inherent problem with this kind of 'discovery' though?
    >Chimps don't do anything to the stones do they (e.g. the flint working of
    >later hominids)? If that's the case, then how can they be sure they're
    >looking at a collection of stones used as tools by chimps, and not just at a
    >collection of stones? (i assume they say more in the Science article).
    >Interesting though.
    > > ----------
    > > From: Ray Recchia
    > > Reply To:
    > > Sent: Monday, May 27, 2002 8:20 AM
    > > To:
    > > Subject: Fwd: Report: chimps used simple tools 5 million years ago
    > >
    > >
    > >
    > >
    > > 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,
    > > Germany.
    > >
    > > 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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