50,000-year-old tools thought to have been made by early Americans were actually made by monkeys to crack nuts, according to research

A brown capuchin monkey

A brown capuchin monkey in Brazil.Hal Beral Group/VW Pics/Universal Images via Getty Images

  • Scientists say capuchin monkeys made ancient stone tools discovered in Brazil.

  • Previously, scientists believed that these were evidence of early settlers.

  • Studies have shown that capuchin monkeys are capable of making a wide variety of stone tools.

Scientists believe ancient stone tools discovered in Brazil are the work of capuchin monkeys, not early humans, art and design website Artnet reported, citing a research paper.

“We believe that early archaeological sites from Brazil may not be human, but may belong to capuchins,” archaeologist Agustín M. Agnolín and paleontologist Federico L. Agnolín wrote in a paper published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal The Holocene in November.

The article said that during an earlier excavation at Pedra Furada – a collection of more than 800 archaeological sites in Piauí in northeastern Brazil, archaeologists discovered what they believe to be ancient stone tools made of locally occurring quartz and quartzite cobblestones.

According to the paper, the oldest of the stone tools discovered are up to 50,000 years old, leading some scientists to theorize that this provided evidence of early human settlement in the region.

However, unexpected discoveries in 2016 challenged this theory.

The findings showed that capuchin monkeys in northeastern Brazil are capable of making and using a wide variety of stone tools. This raised the possibility, first suggested in 2017, that apes – not humans – may be responsible for Pedra Furada’s discoveries.

According to Agnolín and Agnolín, the researchers behind The Holocene, there is now a compelling amount of evidence to suggest that the tools were not man-made.

“Our review of the evidence suggests that the ancient sites in Brazil are not actually the first Americans, but are actually the product of ape activities,” Federico L. Agnolín told Argentina’s National Council for Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET).

The researchers compared the tools found at Pedra Furada with those made by capuchin monkeys today.

“The result was surprising: there was no difference between the supposed human tools of 50,000 years ago and the tools made by apes today,” Agustín M. Agnolín told CONICET.

The researchers looked at previous studies and observations of capuchin monkey populations that show the primates use small stones as hammers and large, flatter rocks as anvils to crack open nuts and seed pods.

“As a result, the rocks used often fracture, creating rock fragments that are very similar to those produced by humans when carving stone tools,” said Agustín M. Agnolín in a CONICET press release.

In addition to this, the researchers stated in The Holocene that there is no evidence to suggest a human presence, noting the absence of hearths or traces of food residue.

“Our study shows that the tools from Pedra Furada and other nearby sites in Brazil were nothing more than the product of capuchin monkeys cracking nuts and rocks around 50,000 years before present,” Federico L. Agnolín told CONICET.

Read the original article in Business Insider

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