Thursday, June 2, 2016

[Mammalogy / Archaeology • 2016] Archaeological Excavation of Wild Macaque Stone Tools

Figure 1. (a) Site LS5 at low tide, Piak Nam Yai, facing north along the island's east coast. The site is situated beneath the large boulder on the left. (b) Use-damage on tools collected after use by PNY macaques, showing (clockwise from top) pitting, crushing and fracture damage, with the use-wear highlighted by dashed white lines in each instance. Modified from Haslam et al. (2013, Fig. 4). (c) Burmese long-tailed macaque using a stone tool to open and eat oysters from an intertidal basalt boulder, Piak Nam Yai, Thailand. (d) LS5B during excavation, with a buried boulder visible at the base of the excavation (along with the rising water table), and the boulder that overhangs the site present at the left of the photograph. The scale on the buried boulder is 5 cm.

More than 3 million years of excavated archaeological evidence (Harmand et al., 2015) underlies most major insights into the evolution of human behaviour. However, we have seen almost no use of archaeological excavation to similarly broaden our under- standing of behaviour in other animal lineages. The few published examples include recovery of a late Holocene assemblage of stones from the Ivory Coast, attributed to the agency of both humans (Homo sapiens) and chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) (Mercader et al., 2002, 2007), and exploration of the occupation sites of non- tool-using species such as penguins (Emslie et al., 2014) and other birds (Burnham et al., 2009). The development of viable methods for identifying and interpreting past non-human tool use landscapes is essential if we are to gain a better understanding of technological evolution within other animals, including our close relatives, the primates. Recently, the growth of primate archaeology has built on the close phylogenetic relationship between humans and other primates to begin filling in this lacuna (Haslam et al., 2009; Carvalho, 2011; Stewart et al., 2011; Haslam, 2012, 2014; Visalberghi et al., 2013; Haslam et al., 2014; McGrew et al., 2014; Benito-Calvo et al., 2015; Luncz et al., 2015; Kühl et al., 2016).

Here, we present the first report on an archaeologically exca- vated Old World monkey tool use site, which was created by wild Burmese long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis aurea) (Bunlungsup et al., 2016) during shellfish-processing activities in coastal Thailand. These macaques use stone and shell pounding tools to access a wide variety of coastal and inter-tidal resources, including shellfish, crabs and nuts (Fig. 1) (Malaivijitnond et al., 2007; Gumert et al., 2009, 2011; Gumert and Malaivijitnond, 2012; Tan et al., 2015), and previous work has demonstrated that use-wear on the stone tools permits reconstruction of past ma- caque activities (Haslam et al., 2013). Uncovering the history of this foraging behaviour opens up opportunities to study its evolution within the macaque lineage and, more broadly, to retrieve comparative data for researchers studying human and primate coastal exploitation (e.g., Marean, 2014; Russon et al., 2014).


Figure 2. 3D scans of selected macaque tools excavated from LS5, Piak Nam Yai, Thailand: (a) PNY065, (b) PNY064, (c) PNY076, (d) PNY079, (e) PNY080, (f) PNY062, (g) PNY082. (a) and (c–g) have crushing and/or fracture wear on their narrow ends; (b) and (e–f) have pitting wear on the tool face. Each tool is shown with both a photorealistic and surface-only scan, to illustrate use damage.

 Michael Haslam, Lydia Luncz, Alejandra Pascual-Garrido, Tiago Falótico, Suchinda Malaivijitnond and Michael D Gumert. 2016. Archaeological Excavation of Wild Macaque Stone Tools. Journal of Human Evolution.  DOI: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2016.05.002

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