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

From: Ray Recchia (
Date: Wed May 29 2002 - 02:37:26 BST

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    Date: Tue, 28 May 2002 21:37:26 -0400
    From: Ray Recchia <>
    Subject: Re: Report: chimps used simple tools 5 million years ago
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    Ok here it is. From 'The Ape and the Sushi Master'. by Frans de Waal.
    Before I post I'll be fair though. It is not clear that the nuts being
    talked about in the 'Science' article are the same as the very difficult to
    crack oil-palm nuts talked about by de Waal. I was able to get an abstract
    from the 'Science' web site and it indicated that 'The data unearthed show
    that chimpanzees transported stones from outcrops and soils to focal
    points, where they used them as hammers to process foodstuff. The repeated
    use of activity areas led to refuse accumulation and site formation.'

    You wrote:

    > > My recollection was that nut cracking with rocks was a very difficult
    > > task to perform and had to be practiced many times before it could be
    > > done right.
    >Nut cracking is a difficult task. Some nuts are very hard,
    >especially the nuts atop necks in homo sapiens....
    >Brute force may or may not be a tool. Is that practice, or just
    >But, we do know these chimps don't have a ballet named after
    >this usage....
    >- Wade

    p. 227 Ape and the Sushi Master

    'To bring these tendencies to bear on the issue of culture, we need only
    look at how chimpanzees learn to crack oil-palm nuts. According to
    field-workers, the expertise of their animals far exceeds that of any human
    who tries it for the first time. It takes many years of practice to place
    one of the hardest nuts in the world on a level surface, find a good-sized
    hammer stone, and hit the nut with the right speed to crack it. It is the
    most complex tool-use in the field, involving both hands, two tools, and
    exact coordination.

    Think about the steps that would be required for this to happen with every
    chimpanzee. On their own they would have to understand that there is food
    inside the nut, which isn't all that obvious. Maybe if they found one that
    was broken already. Then they would have to get two stones together and
    practice repeatedly before producing any positive results. How frequently
    do you suppose chimpanzees figure this out on their own?

    Also interesting was that three years before they could acquire sufficient
    arm strength to crack the nuts and receive a reward, juvenile chimps were
    seen imitating their elders at this task.

    Ray Recchia

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