Primate Archaeology: Investigating Chimpanzee Stone Age

Duration: 2012 – 2013

Abstract: I will apply the methods that I developed previously for chimpanzee stone tools (Carvalho et al. 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011) to a broader range of chimpanzee tools, including those made from perishable raw materials, such as wood. Research will comprise:

1) Experimental nut-cracking sessions in Bossou forest: Can chimpanzees recognize mechanical properties of stones in ways as do humans, such as durability and fracture predictability?

2) Development of tool-use sites in Bossou forest and at new site ‐ Diecké Forest ‐ to record densities and spatial distribution of artifacts at chimpanzees’ sites and compare they key factors with early human sites. This includes re-surveying early human sites with low concentrations of artifacts in Kenya and Ethiopia, as those areas have been underestimated with regard to their potential to understanding patterns of human behaviour.

3) Explore and establish a new research site, possibly the last chimpanzee habitat still unknown: Angola (Cabinda). Private communications indicate these chimpanzees to be tool-users, and research at Cabinda may reveal some of the last chimpanzee traditions and novel technological behaviours with regard to this endangered species.

4) Analyze a variety of assemblages of human pounding tools that have not been systematically studied, as they were previously seen as the “poor parent” of flake technology. Access to fundamental sites (Koobi Fora and West Turkana, Kenya; Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania) is guaranteed, as part of a current Leverhulme Network Grant application that will unite pounding tool researchers of human and non-human primates from international institutions in collaborative work.

5) Record and collect the first non-human primate assemblage of tools to be curated and exhibited at a museum. I have also secured permission to work at the long-term chimpanzee study sites of Mahale (Tanzania) and Goualougo (Republic of Congo).

Coordinator: Susana Carvalho (University of Cambridge)

Participants: Susana Carvalho

Partner institutions: Kyoto University

Financial support: Phyllis and Eileen Gibbs Travelling Fellowship