Primate Archaeology

An evolutionary context for the emergence of technology

Humans are the most technologically advanced species on Earth, with evidence for tool use by our ancestors going back millions of years. But how did we come to be so reliant on technology? Is it because of our brains, our hands, our ability to co-operate and imitate? What started this process, and why did other species not follow the same path? To answer these questions we need to compare the evolution of our own behaviour to that of other animals, and especially other members of our own order, the Primates.

Based in the School of Archaeology at the University of Oxford, the Primate Archaeology project combines archaeological and primatological methods to observe and reconstruct the behaviour of wild tool-using apes and monkeys. Our interdisciplinary scientific team studies chimpanzees in Tanzania, Guinea and the Republic of Congo, capuchin monkeys in Brazil and long-tailed macaques in Thailand. Along with our investigation of hominin sites in Kenya, this work helps us understand both the development of primate tool use through time, and its implications for the emergence of technology among our own ancestors.

This website introduces the people, methods and findings of the PRIMARCH project, which is funded by the European Research Council from 2012-2016.

For updates on our work, you can follow the PRIMARCH team on twitter @PrimateArch.

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