Chimp stone age reported in news@nature 12 Feb 2007, BBC News 13 Feb 2007 and New Scientist 17 Feb 2007. Archaeologists have found stone tools in the rainforests of West Africa they believe were made and used by chimpanzees about 4,300 years ago. The tools are rock pieces similar to chunks of rock that modern day chimps have been observed to use to crack nut open. University of Calgary scientists dated the rocks by using radiocarbon dating on charcoal from the soil in which they were found. They also analysed nut starch found on the stones and found that it came from panda nuts – a type of nut commonly eaten by chimps, but not by humans. Archaeologist Huw Barton, of the University of Leicester commented: “What makes this find interesting is that the rocks are so old. For all we know stone tool use behaviour could be very ancient.” The scientists who did the analysis, claimed the stones are evidence that humans and chimps both inherited tool using ability from a common evolutionary ancestor. Julio Mercader, who led the study, commented: “The simplest, most parsimonious explanation to having two lineages using bashing technologies is that both inherited it, rather than inventing it.”


Editorial Comment: Chimps are not the only animals to use “bashing technology” or tools to get food. Otters use rocks to pry open shells of molluscs and Egyptian vultures throw rocks at ostrich eggs to break them open. However, no-one would claim that otters and vultures inherited this ability from a common ancestor with either chimps or men. Using tools is a behaviour that many animals and birds are capable of, and is learned by successive generations. If chimps have been doing it for the claimed 4,300 years then it is just more evidence that chimps reproduce after their kind, repeating the same behaviour with each generations. (Ref. apes, diet, learning)

Evidence News 14th March 2007