Researchers: Some Chimps And Monkeys Have Now ‘Entered The Stone Age’

Scientists on three continents have uncovered stone tools that weren’t fashioned by the hands of men, and they are citing them as proof that some monkeys and chimpanzees have “entered the stone age.”

As recently as just a few decades ago, scientists believed that humans were the only species to display tool usage. As the BBC points out, that is no longer the case, with researchers having documented numerous examples of many other animals, including primates, using tools. Generally, however, it wasn’t believed that even primates or apes had the capacity for stone tool usage, yet even that assertion has been disproven over the last 15 years.

Across three continents, researchers have now uncovered unique stone tools. Inartful in their construction, many of these devices were fashioned around the same time as the great pyramids. While these stone tools pale in comparison to those created by ancient man, these were fashioned by chimpanzees, capuchins, and macaques. Discovered in West Africa, Brazil, and Thailand, they have given birth to a new field of science known as primate archaeology.

Researchers led by Christophe Boesch at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany examined stone tools excavated from the jungles of the Ivory Coast, noting that they were 4,300-years-old. They were able to identify certain characteristics of some of the stone tools that linked them to chimpanzees. For example, some of the tools weighed between 1 kg and 9 kg, a range normally preferred by chimps (ancient humans preferred stone tools under 1kg). Some of the pieces were also coated with the starchy reside of nuts that are eaten by chimps, but not humans. These findings suggest that for the last 4,300 years, chimpanzees have been making use of stone tools in the region.

Cute baby chimpanzee taking a giant leap.

— Nature (@EarthPlX) August 14, 2015

In both Brazil and Thailand, researchers have observed the use of stone tools by modern monkeys and are pointing out that they see the development of these skills independent of each other. The scientists are now adopting the techniques used by Boesch in the Ivory Coast to examine the history of tool use in their respective sites. Their research, which is being conducted as part of the Primate Archaeology (Primarch) project, has yet to be released.

When mankind entered our own stone age, we developed a variety of abilities, as Upworthy notes. Aside from domesticating dogs, we also learned to control fire, fashioned pottery and made crude, early boats. The ability of chimps and other animals to continue their development may be impeded by our very presence, however, as human actions continue to negatively impact primate habitat. It remains to be seen how chimpanzees and monkeys will develop during their own stone age, and whether the presence of man will be a deciding factor in their evolution.

[Photo by Cameron Spencer / Getty Images]