First GIS Analysis of Modern Stone Tools Used by Wild Chimpanzees

Alfonso Benito Calvo, researcher at the Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana (CENIEH) has recently published in PLos One the first systematic morphometric study of stone tools used by wild chimpanzees in West Africa, in order to provide percussion patterns to be compared to the first technological stages of human evolution

The stone tool use by wild chimpanzees of West Africa offers a unique opportunity to explore the evolutionary roots of technology during human evolution. However, detailed analyses of chimpanzee stone artifacts are still lacking, thus precluding a comparison with the earliest archaeological record.

This paper presents the first systematic study of stone tools used by wild chimpanzees to crack open nuts in Bossou (Guinea-Conakry), and applies pioneering analytical techniques to such artifacts. Automatic morphometric GIS classification enabled to create maps of use wear over the stone tools (anvils, hammers, and hammers/ anvils), which were blind tested with GIS spatial analysis of damage patterns identified visually.

Our analysis shows that chimpanzee stone tool use wear can be systematized and specific damage patterns discerned, allowing to discriminate between active and passive pounders in lithic assemblages.

In summary, our results demonstrate the heuristic potential of combined suites of GIS techniques for the analysis of battered artifacts, and have enabled creating a referential framework of analysis in which wild chimpanzee battered tools can for the first time be directly compared to the early archaeological record