(ORDO NEWS) — Tool making is generally considered a behavioral trait unique to humans and their closest relatives, the great apes.
However, having studied the stone tools of our ancestors and modern macaques, scientists have found a lot of similarities between them.
Crab-eating macaques live in Southeast Asia , who often and willingly use stones to crack any objects in a hard shell (nuts, crabs, shellfish, and so on).
At the same time, both “anvils” and “hammers” sometimes break, and broken fragments literally strew the surroundings, testifying to the long-term presence of macaques in the region.
These stone fragments are made unintentionally, and most often the monkeys throw the “spoiled” stone, after which they take on the next one.
However, researchers from the Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology of the Max Planck Society (Germany) compared the shape of such fragments with stone flakes found at the earliest archaeological sites in East Africa, where our distant ancestors once lived.
Comparing randomly split stones “made” by macaques, scientists found that they are very similar to some of the early tools attributed to human ancestors.
Thus, these flakes, which are usually considered to be primitive tools or products of their manufacture, could in fact be the results of attempts to crack a particularly hard nut.
By observing modern primates and their complex behavior, scientists can trace the early stages of human evolution.
Particularly curious is the fact that macaques, unlike gorillas and chimpanzees, are not closely related to us – they and our ancestors separated about 25 million years ago – so rather complex instrumental activity should be a characteristic feature of all monkeys.
The accidental cracking of stones could be a precursor to intentional tool-making. Just at some point, our ancestors noticed that with thin stone flakes you can dig the ground or cut the meat of a dead animal, after which the “broken” stones found a second life in their hands.
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