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Chimpanzee stone tool site excavated

l as a few centimeters.

Using archaeological methods on a non-human species, for the first time the excavations revealed new facets of chimpanzee tool behavior. Especially interesting was the excavation of Panda 100, a large tree where Hedwige and Christophe Boesch have observed for many years chimpanzees cracking nuts with different stones they transported over hundreds of meters from other Panda trees. Due to the low visibility across the rainforest floor chimpanzees have to mentally calculate all of these movements keeping transport costs to a minimum. The archaeological data show that chimpanzees collect rocks from various sources across the landscape and bring them to nut-cracking sites.

This project has confirmed for the first time that archaeology can be successfully applied to the study of past chimpanzee behavior. The distribution of remains is not random, presenting very clear concentrations of nut shells and stone remains at nut-cracking areas. The distribution of these clusters, with well defined edges, closely resemble what archaeologists understand as "activity areas". The unearthed materials include more than 4 kilograms of stone pieces and almost 40 kilos of nut-shell, and demonstrate that, like human sites, it is the repeated occupation of the same spot and the creation of large refuse accumulations that creates what archaeologists call a "site". Because the site of Panda 100 is most likely older than 100 years, this discovery indicates that nut-cracking behavior has been present in this region for many generations.

The stone remains retrieved were unintentionally produced by chimpanzees as they hit rock hammers against wooden anvils. In all, 479 stones pieces were excavated, some from a depth of as deep as 21 cm. A fascinating aspect of this discovery is that the size of the stones, the shape of flakes, and the many small pieces of debris left by chimpanzees are similar to the stones left behind by some of our early ancestor
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Contact: Prof. Christophe Boesch
boesch@eva.mpg.de
49-341-9952-201
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
23-May-2002


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