Insights from some of our closest tool-using relatives

Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) are one of the two closest living species to humans, the other being bonobos (Pan paniscus). Both are found exclusively in tropical Africa. All chimpanzee groups use tools to some extent, but only those in West Africa (P. t. verus) use stone tools. Stones used for opening hard-shelled nuts have a greater chance of long-term survival than stick and leaf tools used for other tasks, and therefore a higher chance of being recovered through archaeological excavations.

The PRIMARCH project conducts field research with four populations of chimpanzees, covering different subspecies and a range of chimpanzee habitats both geographically and environmentally. The sites are Bossou (Guinea; Pan troglodytes verus), Taï (Ivory Coast; Pan troglodytes verus), Goualougo (Republic of Congo; Pan troglodytes troglodytes) and Ugalla (Tanzania; Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii). Research at these sites is directed respectively by Prof. Tetsuro Matsuzawa, Dr Roman Wittig, Drs Crickette Sanz and David Morgan, and Drs Fiona Stewart, Alex Piel and Adriana Hernandez-Aguilar.

Further information:

Ugalla Primate Project

Goualougo Triangle Ape Project

The Chimpanzees of Bossou and Nimba

Taï Chimpanzee Project

Kyoto University Graduate Program in Primatology and Wildlife Sciences

Key references:

Biro, D., Inoue-Nakamura, N., Tonooka, R., Yamakoshi, G., Sousa, C., Matsuzawa, T., 2003. Cultural innovation and transmission of tool use in wild chimpanzees: evidence from field experiments. Animal Cognition 6, 213-223.

Boesch C., Boesch-Achermann H. 2000. The Chimpanzees of the Tai Forest. Behavioural Ecology and Evolution. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Carvalho, S., Biro, D., McGrew, W. C., Matsuzawa, T., 2009. Tool-composite reuse in wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes): archaeologically invisible steps in the technological evolution of early hominins? Animal Cognition 12, S103-S114.

Haslam, M., 2014. On the tool use behavior of the bonobo-chimpanzee last common ancestor, and the origins of hominine stone tool use. American Journal of Primatology doi:10.1002/ajp.22284.

Haslam, M., 2014. Primate archaeobotany: the potential for revealing nonhuman primate plant-use in the African archaeological record. In: Nixon, S., Murray, M. A., Fuller, D. (Eds), The Archaeology of African Plant Use. Left Coast Press, Walnut Creek, CA, pp. 25-35.

Hernandez-Aguilar, A., Moore, J., Pickering, T., 2007. Savanna chimpanzees use tools to harvest the underground storage organs of plants. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 104, 19210-19213.

Joulian, F., 1996. Comparing chimpanzee and early hominid techniques: some contributions to cultural and cognitive questions. In: Mellars, P., Gibson, K. (Eds) Modelling the Early Human Mind. McDonald Institute Monographs, Cambridge, pp. 173-189.

Matsuzawa, T., Humle, T., Sugiyama, Y. (Eds), 2011. The Chimpanzees of Bossou and Nimba. Springer, Dordrecht.

Mercader, J., Panger, M., Boesch, C., 2002. Excavation of a chimpanzee stone tool site in the African rainforest. Science 296, 1452-1455.

Mercader, J., Barton, H., Gillespie, J., Harris, J., Kuhn, S., Tyler, R. T., Boesch, C., 2007. 4,300-year-old chimpanzee sites and the origins of percussive stone technology. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 104(9), 3043-3048.

Sanz, C., Morgan, D., 2007. Chimpanzee tool technology in the Goualougo Triangle, Republic of Congo. Journal of Human Evolution 52, 420-433.

Sanz, C., Morgan, D., 2011. Elemental variation in the termite fishing of wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Biology Letters 7, 634-637.

Sept, J., 2012. A worm’s eye view of primate behaviour. In: Sept, J., Pilbeam, D. (Eds) Casting the Net Wide: Papers in honor of Glynn Isaac and his approach to humans origin research. Oxbow Books, Oxford, pp. 169-192.

Stewart, F., Piel, A., McGrew, W. C., 2011. Living archaeology: artefacts of specific nest site fidelity in wild chimpanzees. Journal of Human Evolution 61, 388-395.

Whiten, A., Goodall, J., McGrew, W. C., Nishida, T., Reynlds, V., Sugiyama, Y., Tutin, C., Wrangham, R., Boesch, C., 2001. Charting cultural variation in chimpanzees. Behaviour 138, 1481-1516.

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