Novel field of primate archaeology to shed new light on human evolution

July 16th, 2009 - 5:34 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, July 16 (ANI): A team of scientists is advocating for a new inter-disciplinary field of primate archaeology to examine history of tool use in all primate species in order to better understand human evolution.

The scientists are from universities including Cambridge, Rutgers, Kyoto University and schools in Spain, Italy and France.

They argue that recent discoveries of tool use by a wide variety of wild primates and archaeological evidence of chimpanzees using stone tools for thousands of years is forcing experts to re-think the traditional dividing lines between humans and other primate species as well as the belief that tool use is the exclusive domain of the genus Homo.

The researchers advocate for a new inter-disciplinary field of primate archaeology to examine tool use by primates in a long-term, evolutionary context.

“There is a need for systematic collaboration between diverse research programs to understand the broader questions in human evolution and primatology,” said Julio Mercader, holder of the Canada Research Chair in Tropical Archaeology in the U of C’s (University of Calgary’s) Department of Archaeology.

“For example, few archaeologists have seen a wild primate use a tool, while few primatologists have taken part in archaeological excavations,” he explained.

He is the archaeologist who uncovered the first prehistoric evidence of chimpanzee technology in 2007 - a 4,300-year-old nut-cracking site in the rainforests of Cote D’Ivoire, West Africa that provides proof of a long-standing chimpanzee “stone age” that likely emerged independently of influence from humans.

“It’s not clear whether we hominins invented this kind of stone technology, or whether both humans and the great apes inherited it from a common forebear,” said Mercader.
“We used to think that culture and, above anything else, technology was the exclusive domain of humans, but this is not the case. We need comparable methods of data collection among researchers dealing with 2 million year old hominin sites and modern primatological assemblages,” he added. (ANI)

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