Early humans created something known as a stone flake tool, which was thought to be unique to our species, but a new study from the University of Oxford has found that we aren’t so unique after all: capuchin monkeys also create stone flake tools.
Early humans used stone flake tools as knives and other instruments because they were so sharp and easy to repair.
Our ancestors knocked layers off of stones to get to the inside of the stone with a hammer, before creating the stone tool with a rudimentary tool like an animal bone.
And while archaeologists long thought this behavior was totally a human one, they have found themselves proven wrong.
Leader of the study, Tomos Proffitt, said of the findings:
“It’s an incredibly interesting behavior. Another species is making sharp, conchoidally fractured flakes, an artifact that we only ever thought is unique to hominins.”
However, it appears monkeys and humans created the flake tools for two entirely different reasons.
Humans created the flake tool to use in a variety of settings and help them in their everyday lives.
Monkeys, however, mostly create the flake tool by accident and don’t even use them once they’ve made them.
They use the same procedure that archaeologists think early humans did, by taking the rocks and smashing them with a rudimentary tool.
But once they’re smashed, they don’t seem to pay much attention to them. Instead, researchers found they gravitated toward the quartz dust that came off of the rock.
The quartz dust was of particular interest to the monkeys because it was found that they lick it instead of use it. It is thought that they are getting mineral nutrients from the dust.
While the flakes created by monkeys and created by humans may look similar on the surface, scientists note that humans created them with a much more deliberate nature.
Although the creation of tools is purely accidental, scientists say that it could provide clues for why and how humans started making tools in the first place. Studying the monkeys means that this behavior could turn into more human-like behavior down the line.