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Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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How Does the Environment Shape the Development of Culture?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND—Kathelinjne Koops of the University of Cambridge has written an opinion piece in Biology Letters that challenges the adage that necessity is the mother of invention. She and her colleagues have reviewed studies on tool use among chimpanzees, orangutans, and bearded capuchins, and have found that their tool use did not increase during times of scarcity. Rather, primates use tools when there are calorie-rich, hard-to-reach foods, such as nuts and honey, available in the environment. Understanding the development of tool use in our primate cousins could provide insights into the development of human culture and technology, Koops explained. “The local environment may exert a powerful influence on culture and may, in fact, be critical for understanding the occurrence and distribution of material culture,” she told Science Daily.

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