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2016 PRIMARCH meeting in Oxford

The 2016 Primate Archaeology meeting was held in Oxford last week, on 27-28 June. We had a range of excellent reviews and new data on primate tool use, as well as comparisons with the early hominin record. Hopefully we’ll be seeing the exciting new information in publications soon! Many thanks are owed to the Oxford team (Tomos Proffitt, Lydia Luncz, Michael Gumert) who made this possible.


Participants in the 2016 PRIMARCH meeting, L to R: Tetsuro Matsuzawa, Jack Harris, Adrian Arroyo, Ammie Kalan, Tomos Proffitt, Adriana Hernandez-Aguilar, Alejandra Pascual-Garrido, Elisabetta Visalberghi, Fiona Stewart, Tiago Falotico, Lydia Luncz, Mike Huffman, Michael Gumert, Amanda Tan, Jill Pruetz, Caroline Schuppli, Doree Fragaszy, Edu Ottoni. Not pictured (because I took the photo): Michael Haslam

Primate Archaeology meeting in Oxford, 27-28 June

The Primate Archaeology team is looking forward to welcoming our regular network of collaborators, as well as some special guests, to our final ERC-sponsored project meeting at the end of June. The meeting will be held in Oxford, and will feature talks on the tool-use of primates and hominins from speakers such as Jill Pruetz, Ignacio de la Torre, Michael Huffman, Tetsuro Matsuzawa, Dorothy Fragaszy, Michael Gumert, Eduardo Ottoni, Jack Harris, Elisabetta Visalberghi and many more. We plan to share the outcomes of this meeting in publications and other outreach activities in the near future, so stay tuned!

Macaque archaeology

Update: the BBC and New Scientist have coverage of our macaque excavation paper, including some nice videos they’ve produced. Our thanks to Melissa Hogenboom and Alex Kasprak for their reporting.

We are excited to announce that our team have recently published our first paper on the archaeological excavation of a wild long-tailed macaque stone-tool-use site, in Thailand. The paper is published in the Journal of Human Evolution, and you can get a personal copy from the Outcomes page. Here’s the introduction:

More than 3 million years of excavated archaeological evidence underlies most major insights into the evolution of human behaviour. However, we have seen almost no use of archaeological excavation to similarly broaden our understanding of behaviour in other animal lineages. The few published examples include recovery of a late Holocene assemblage of stones from the Ivory Coast, attributed to the agency of both humans (Homo sapiens) and chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus), and exploration of the occupation sites of non-tool-using species such as penguins and other birds. The development of viable methods for identifying and interpreting past non-human tool use landscapes is essential if we are to gain a better understanding of technological evolution within other animals, including our close relatives, the primates. Recently, the growth of primate archaeology has built on the close phylogenetic relationship between humans and other primates to begin filling in this lacuna.

Here, we present the first report on an archaeologically excavated Old World monkey tool use site, which was created by wild Burmese long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis aurea) during shellfish-processing activities in coastal Thailand. These macaques use stone and shell pounding tools to access a wide variety of coastal and inter-tidal resources, including shellfish, crabs and nuts, and previous work has demonstrated that use-wear on the stone tools permits reconstruction of past macaque activities. Uncovering the history of this foraging behaviour opens up opportunities to study its evolution within the macaque lineage and, more broadly, to retrieve comparative data for researchers studying human and primate coastal exploitation.

PRIMARCH website update

After some difficulties, the Primate Archaeology website has been updated with our latest publications and further information about our current team. Please visit the Outcomes page to read about some of what we’ve been up to over the past six months, and welcome also to Dr Michael Gumert and Dr Tomos Proffitt to our team for 2016!

New percussion technology journal issue features primate archaeology

The most recent issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B features a number of papers that draw on primate archaeology to compare the evolution of primate and human technologies. These include a major new study by Lydia Luncz and colleagues, which for the first time uses archaeological survey to reconstruct the past behaviour of a now-vanished group of wild chimpanzees. Lydia used the remains of nut-cracking sites to work out how the group had used stone and wooden tools, and then compared these data to the current behaviour of a small group of female chimpanzees thought to have once belonged to the missing group. The paper is available to download and read now from the Outcomes page.

Luncz, L., Wittig, R., Boesch, C. 2015. Primate archaeology reveals cultural transmission in wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus). Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 370. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2014.0348.

Just advertised: another Primate Archaeology postdoc at Oxford

Applications are invited for a Postdoctoral Research Assistant (PDRA) to join the Primate Archaeology research group at the School of Archaeology, University of Oxford. The position is funded by the European Research Council and is led by Dr. Michael Haslam.

The post is a full-time appointment, for a fixed term of 12 months from 1 January 2016.

Applicants must have a PhD in Archaeology or Human Evolution, with experience analysing stone tools and conducting comparative studies. The Primate Archaeology project aims to better understand human technological evolution through the comparative study of tool-use in three wild non-human primate species (chimpanzees, capuchin monkeys and macaques). The primary roles of the PDRA will be to assist with the study of stone tools from non-human primates, and to develop theoretical models that use primate data to reconstruct the emergence and evolution of hominin tool use. A demonstrated track record of publications on human evolution and lithic technology is essential. Knowledge of the existing primate tool use literature is desirable, as is experience with experimental or functional analysis of stone tools.

To apply for this role and for further details, including the job description and selection criteria, please click on the link below:

Two Primate Archaeology postdoc positions now open at Oxford

We are pleased to announce two new postdoctoral research assistant (PDRA) positions with the Oxford Primate Archaeology group. Both positions are 12 month appointments starting on 1 January 2016, and applications close on 30 October 2015.

PDRA 1 (Data Analyst)

Applicants must have a PhD in Primatology, Animal Behaviour or Biological Anthropology, with extensive experience in managing and analysing the behaviour and ecology of wild non-human primates. The Primate Archaeology project examines the evolution of non-human technology through the study of tool-use in three wild primate species (chimpanzees, bearded capuchin monkeys and long-tailed macaques). The primary role of the PDRA will be to co-ordinate the project’s data banks (behavioural observations, video material and 3D libraries of tool scans). The successful candidate will also assist in the design and conduct of statistical analysis using the available data banks. A demonstrated track record of publications on primate social behaviour is essential. Knowledge of the existing archaeological literature is desirable but not essential.

To see further details, please got to: and enter the vacancy ID 120383.

PDRA 2 (Macaque Tool Use)

Applicants must have a PhD in Primatology or Animal Behaviour, with field experience recording and analysing tool-use behaviour in wild non-human primates. The Primate Archaeology project examines the evolution of non-human technology through the study of tool-use in three wild primate species (chimpanzees, bearded capuchin monkeys and long-tailed macaques). The primary role of the PDRA will be to co-ordinate the project’s research into wild macaque tool use in Thailand and Myanmar. The successful candidate will also assist in the analysis and publication of collaborative data from international field projects with capuchins and chimpanzees. A demonstrated track record of publications on primate tool use from a comparative, cultural or historical perspective is desirable, as is experience working in Southeast Asian field conditions. Archaeological experience conducting surveys and excavations is desirable but not essential.

To see further details, please got to: and enter the vacancy ID 120374.

Evolution of Tool Use meeting in Oxford

The PRIMARCH-sponsored Evolution of Tool Use meeting was successfully held on 3 August 2015, at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. All of our speakers presented thoughtful views on how, why and where their study species may have discovered and (in some cases lost) the ability to use tools. It was a treat to get the latest information directly from the leading experts on primate, hominin and non-human primate technology, and no doubt we will be hearing more in the near future. Thank you to everyone who attended the day, and to Julia Parker and her team at the Museum.


Our speakers, from left to right: Tracy Kivell, Lydia Luncz, Janet Mann, Michael Haslam, Tiago Falotico, Alex Kacelnik, Thibaud Gruber, Shelby Putt, Tim Tinker, Sonia Harmand, Michael Gumert, Ellen Meulman

Volunteer fieldwork opportunity in Thailand, Jan-Feb 2016

The Oxford Primate Archaeology group is looking for volunteers to join our Thailand field programme in January and February 2016. We will be conducting surveys and excavation of wild long-tailed macaque stone tool sites, as well as observation of macaque behaviour. This work is in conjunction with Dr Michael Gumert of Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

Our primary fieldwork location will be Ao Phang-Nga National Park, to the east of Phuket island. We are looking for volunteers with field experience and a willingness to work in marine and tropical environments, including mangroves. All travel, accommodation and subsistence costs will be covered, however we cannot provide a stipend. Preference will be given to volunteers who can join our team for the entire fieldwork season.

Please send expressions of interest, along with a cv detailing previous experience and your availability over the January-February period, to Dr Michael Haslam:

The closing date for this call is Friday 21 August 2015.

Lydia Luncz wins prestigious German Primate Center Award

Congratulations to PRIMARCH’s Lydia Luncz, who has won the German Primate Center Award for her doctoral work on the cultural chimpanzees of the Tai Forest. For more information, please see:

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