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Stone Tools: Brazil Monkeys Using Them for 700 Years, Study Finds

Image: Stone Tools: Brazil Monkeys Using Them for 700 Years, Study Finds

A capuchin monkey hard at work. (Dr. Michael Haslam / Primate Archaeology project)

By    |   Tuesday, 12 Jul 2016 10:45 AM

Stone tools have been used by Brazil monkeys for at least 700 years as hammers and anvils to break open cashew nuts, according to a new study in the journal Current Biology.

The study even suggested, noted The Independent, that humans may have discovered such nuts were edible by watching capuchin monkeys break open the shells for their meals.

The Current Biology study is based on research done by archeologists from the University of Oxford and the University of São Paulo in Brazil who observed groups of modern capuchins at Serra da Capivara National Park in northeast Brazil, according to an Oxford statement.

"Researchers watched wild capuchins use stones as hand-held hammers and anvils to pound open hard foods such as seeds and cashew nuts, with young monkeys learning from older ones how to do the same," said a University of Oxford statement.

"The capuchins created what the researchers describe as 'recognizable cashew processing sites,' leaving stone tools in piles at specific places like the base of cashew trees or on tree branches after use. They found that capuchins picked their favorite tools from stones lying around, selecting those most suitable for the task," the statement continued.

Researchers said they excavated 69 stones at the site, identifying them as similar tools used by the monkeys based on size, shape and damage done to them by the pounding against the nuts and ground.

The researchers said they were able to carbon date small pieces of charcoal discovered with the stones, establishing the tools to be at least 600 to 700 years old. That predates the arrival of Europeans in the New World, noted Oxford.

"Until now, the only archaeological record of pre-modern, non-human animal tool use comes from a study of three chimpanzee sites in Cote d'Ivoire in Africa, where tools were dated to between 4,300 and 1,300 years old," said Michael Haslam, the study's lead author.

"Here, we have new evidence that suggests monkeys and other primates out of Africa were also using tools for hundreds, possibly thousands of years. This is an exciting, unexplored area of scientific study that may even tell us about the possible influence of monkeys' tool use on human behavior." 

Lydia V. Luncz, another one of the study's authors, told the Washington Post that could go back farther.

"We think we're just at the beginning," Luncz told the Post. "We definitely expect this to go beyond 700 years."

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Stone tools have been used by Brazil monkeys for at least 700 years as hammers and anvils to break open cashew nuts, according to a new study in the journal Current Biology.
stone, tools, brazil, monkeys
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2016-45-12
Tuesday, 12 Jul 2016 10:45 AM
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