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Wouldn't You Rather Talk About Monkeys

Than all this politics crap? Of course you would. Only people with no souls would choose politics over monkeys smashing rocks.


The monkey picks up a potato-sized rock in his tiny hands, raises it above his head and smashes it down with all his might on another stone embedded in the ground. As the creature enthusiastically bashes away, over and over, flakes fly off the rock he is wielding. They are sharp enough to cut meat or plant material. The monkey does not pay much attention to the flakes, save to place one on the embedded rock and attempt to smash it, too. But he has unintentionally produced artifacts that look for all the world like stone tools found at some human archaeological sites.

Uh oh. Was it monkey or was it man?

Now a new study has examined the capuchin-produced stone flakes and compared them to human-made artifacts, and it turns out that the chips meet criteria used to distinguish human tools from naturally broken rocks. The findings, published in the October 20 Nature, could fuel debate over controversial archaeological sites in Brazil that are said to have some of the earliest evidence of humans in the New World. The discovery also raises questions about what differentiates humans from other primates, and how our lineage started fashioning tools from stone.
Yet in other ways the capuchin handiwork throws the divide between nonhuman primates and ourselves into higher relief. Researchers agree that the key difference between the capuchin-made artifacts and human-made ones is that the latter were produced intentionally, with a purpose in mind. For the capuchins, sharp-edged flakes appear to be disposable byproducts of their quest for quartz dust. For early humans, they almost certainly aided survival by facilitating access to food.

Although the capuchin discovery demonstrates that nonhuman species can accidentally produce fragments of rock that look just like human-crafted cutting tools, that does not mean the human-made tools are not special, Harmand cautions. Even if human ancestors started creating flakes by mistake like the capuchins do, there was something that made them realize they could put them to use and even make new tools to suit their purposes.

Mebbe the monkeys are just getting smarter. I've seen lots of Planet of the Apes thanks to fnord12. I know what happens when primates get smart. Now we can have our choice of apocalyptic futures: Dr. Strangelove or The Ape Uprising.

By min | October 21, 2016, 8:27 AM | Science