Chimpanzee Archaeology: Seeking the Evolutionary Origins of Technology

Duration: 2007 – 2012

Abstract: Through a new perspective combining ethological and archaeological methods, including direct and indirect records of stone tool-use at several nut-cracking sites used by chimpanzees in Guinea, West Africa, I will collect data on the chimpanzees’ currently used lithic assemblages addressing the evolution of technology and the factors that may explain the genesis of tool-use by human and non-human primates.

The following main questions will be addressed:

1) Is the evolution of material culture correlated with phylogeny?

2) What selection pressures exert influence on the evolution of material culture?

3) Do ecological variables (i.e. raw material availability, tool mobility) create typological and technological constraints for the emergence of the first lithic industries?

4) Are chimpanzee nut-cracking sites technologically comparable to human nut-cracking sites?

Coordinator: William C. McGrew PhD (U. Cambridge); Eugénia Cunha PhD (U. Coimbra)

Participants: Susana Carvalho, Eugénia Cunha

Partner institutions: Kyoto University (Japan)

Financial support: Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, U. S. A (Fieldwork dissertation grant Number: 27757).; Leakey Trust UK; Cambridge European Trust (RIB00107); Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT), Portugal (SFRH/BD/36169/ 2007).