Monday, February 12, 2007

The Chimp and the hammer

A controversial study out of Calgary has found that chimps may have used rocks the size of cantaloupes to crack nuts over 4,300 years ago. Now I'm not going to say that Canadians need to find better things to do, but as far as controversy is concerned, I'm somewhat surprised that this one makes for much of a debate.

I don't know just how smart humans were 4,000 years ago, but I do know that they could crack nuts with a rock. I see no reason why chimps would not be able to do the same thing. The study says that the first recorded used of chimps using rocks to open nuts was made in the 1600s by the Portugese. That proves nothing except that no Europeans were spending time around chimps until the 17th century. And if we are relying on the Portuguese to make this kind of finding, we are lucky we found out about it that soon. While Portugal is a fine country (in other words, no Denmark) they don't exactly come to mind when we are talking about the first class anthropologists of Europe. I read an article last week that said that two new Indian tribes were just discovered in Brazil this year.The Portugese (and their descedents) have been in Brazil since the 1500s. It took them 500 years to discover these Indians ? They were not looking too damn hard.And these Indians were right out in the open. Not up in trees banging rocks on nuts.

But the interesting thing will to see what other new Chimp findings will come out of this area of Africa. Will we find that there is evidence that chimps wore tuxedos and smoked cigars (like they do in America) 4,000 years ago ? That would be a real find !Did the chimps take the nuts they cracked and prepare them in an interesting way ? Perhaps as a salad ? Did they invent other nut cracking methods ? My mother always broke pecan shells by cracking two pecans together in her hand. Did the chimps know about that methid ? Did they invent a rudimentary metal nut cracker ? Or maybe one of those big German soldier nutcrackers that you see out every Christmas ?Did they use their teeth ? Did they copy the Portugese method of nut cracking, as used in both Africa and the new world. That is, kidnap tribesman, chain them up in a ship, and enslave them on a rubber planatation and make them do the nut cracking for you ? Or perhaps use the American method. By the damn things pre shelled.

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