Tuesday, February 13, 2007

It's Hammer Time

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Chimpanzees may have been using stone "hammers" as long as 4,300 years ago, an international research team, led by archaeologist Julio Mercader of the University of Calgary, Canada, said Monday.

The researchers uncovered the hammers, in the West African country Ivory Coast. It would be the earliest known use of tools by chimpanzees.

The hammers were used to crack nuts, a behavior still seen in chimps in that area, the researchers said in a paper in the online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Now, I will forgo the cheap Bush/Chimpanzee jokes at the moment. I did get a really good picture of Bush using a hammer at the White House photo gallery however. That aside, chimpanzees use straws to dig for termites, and hammers as well as just basic things as crude as rocks to use as implements. We used to think tool making was what differentiated ourselves from the "lesser" creatures, but our thinking of course had to evolve.

I am just glad that this was 4,300 years ago. If it was over 6,000 years ago, a good chunk of Pat Robertson's listening audience would say that this story didn't exist. But hey, if Pat Robertson can come up with an amazing protein shake, why not be amazed at tool production among our primate cousins?