Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Primate Archaeology Sheds Light On Human Origins

Date:
August 9, 2009
Source:
University of Calgary
Summary:
Archaeologists are now establishing a discipline devoted to the history of tool use in non-human primate species in order to better understand human evolution.

A chimpanzee mother cracks a nut using a rock hammer and anvil in Republic of Guinea.
Credit: Tetsuro Matsuzawa, Kyoto University

A University of Calgary archaeologist who is one of the few researchers in the world studying the material culture of human beings' closest living relatives – the great apes – is joining his colleagues in creating a new discipline devoted to the history of tool use in all primate species in order to better understand human evolution.

Julio Mercader, holder of the Canada Research Chair in Tropical Archaeology in the U of C's Department of Archaeology, is a coauthor of a new paper titled "Primate archaeology" published recently in the journal Nature. Mercader is one of 18 co-authors from universities including Cambridge, Rutgers, Kyoto University and schools in Spain, Italy and France. They argue that recent discoveries of tool use by a wide variety of wild primates and archaeological evidence of chimpanzees using stone tools for thousands of years is forcing experts to re-think the traditional dividing lines between humans and other primate species as well as the belief that tool use is the exclusive domain of the genus Homo. The researchers advocate for a new inter-disciplinary field of primate archaeology to examine tool use by primates in a long-term, evolutionary context.

"There is a need for systematic collaboration between diverse research programs to understand the broader questions in human evolution and primatology," Mercader says. "For example, few archaeologists have seen a wild primate use a tool, while few primatologists have taken part in archaeological excavations," he explains.

Mercader was the lead author of a team that laid the foundations of the emerging discipline of chimpanzee archaeology in two previously-published papers in Science and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). He is the archaeologist who uncovered the first prehistoric evidence of chimpanzee technology in 2007 — a 4,300-year-old nut-cracking site in the rainforests of Cτte D'Ivoire, West Africa that provides proof of a long-standing chimpanzee "stone age" that likely emerged independently of influence from humans.

"It's not clear whether we hominins invented this kind of stone technology, or whether both humans and the great apes inherited it from a common forebear," says Mercader. "We used to think that culture and, above anything else, technology was the exclusive domain of humans, but this is not the case. We need comparable methods of data collection among researchers dealing with 2 million year old hominin sites and modern primatological assemblages."

The official inauguration of the new field of primate archaeology marks the culmination of several years of work on the part of the handful of researchers including Mercader, who joined the U of C in 2002 with the support of the Canada Research Chairs program and the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

"This is truly at the vanguard of archaeology and I am so pleased these agencies and the University of Calgary had the vision seven years ago to be a part of creating a new discipline that is seeing its birth now," Mercader says.

The paper is the result of the international symposium "Palaeoanthropology meets Primatology" held on Oct. 18, 2008 at Cambridge.

 


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Calgary. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Michael Haslam, Adriana Hernandez-Aguilar, Victoria Ling, Susana Carvalho, Ignacio de la Torre, April DeStefano, Andrew Du, Bruce Hardy, Jack Harris, Linda Marchant, Tetsuro Matsuzawa, William McGrew, Julio Mercader, Rafael Mora, Michael Petraglia, Helene Roche, Elisabetta Visalberghi & Rebecca Warren. Primate archaeology. Nature, July 16, 2009

Cite This Page:

University of Calgary. "Primate Archaeology Sheds Light On Human Origins." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 August 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090715131437.htm>.
University of Calgary. (2009, August 9). Primate Archaeology Sheds Light On Human Origins. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090715131437.htm
University of Calgary. "Primate Archaeology Sheds Light On Human Origins." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090715131437.htm (accessed April 20, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Couple Finds Love Letters From WWI In Attic

Couple Finds Love Letters From WWI In Attic

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) — A couple found love letters from World War I in their attic. They were able to deliver them to relatives of the writer of those letters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Erotic Art Offers Glimpse of China's 'lost' Sexual Philosophy

Erotic Art Offers Glimpse of China's 'lost' Sexual Philosophy

AFP (Apr. 16, 2014) — Explicit Chinese art works dating back centuries go on display in Hong Kong, revealing China's ancient relationship with sex. Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
French Historians Fight to Save Iconic La Samaritaine Buildings

French Historians Fight to Save Iconic La Samaritaine Buildings

AFP (Apr. 15, 2014) — Parisians and local historians are fighting to save one of the French capital's iconic buildings, the La Samaritaine department store. Duration: 01:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bee Fossils Provide Insight Into Ice Age Environment

Bee Fossils Provide Insight Into Ice Age Environment

Newsy (Apr. 12, 2014) — Archeologists have found many fossils in the La Brea Tar Pits, including those of saber-tooth tigers and mammoths. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins