Chimp Religion?

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Chimpanzee researchers have been studying the behavior captured in this video and are speculating on the possibility that it could be a sacred ritual and a primal form of religious belief. The video description further explains:

The study of the archaeological remains of fossil hominins must rely on reconstructions to elucidate the behaviour that may have resulted in particular stone tools and their accumulation. Comparatively, stone tool use among living primates has illuminated behaviours that are also amenable to archaeological examination, permitting direct observations of the behaviour leading to artefacts and their assemblages to be incorporated. Here, we describe newly discovered stone tool-use behaviour and stone accumulation sites in wild chimpanzees reminiscent of human cairns. In addition to data from 17 mid- to long-term chimpanzee research sites, we sampled a further 34 Pan troglodytes communities. We found four populations in West Africa where chimpanzees habitually bang and throw rocks against trees, or toss them into tree cavities, resulting in conspicuous stone accumulations at these sites. This represents the first record of repeated observations of individual chimpanzees exhibiting stone tool use for a purpose other than extractive foraging at what appear to be targeted trees. The ritualized behavioural display and collection of artefacts at particular locations observed in chimpanzee accumulative stone throwing may have implications for the inferences that can be drawn from archaeological stone assemblages and the origins of ritual sites.

Scientists believe this behavior is ritualistic in nature and goes beyond storage of rocks used for throwing. In human cultures stones have various symbologies and are used in burials and shrines. Researchers note that indigenous West African people also collect stones at sacred trees in a way that looks “eerily similar to what we have discovered here”. It was also previously believed that only humans created tools until researchers discovered chimps fashioned “termite probes” to extract termites from their nests. This early stage in discovery involves a lot of speculation as researchers scramble to make sense of this behavior.

While we’re on the subject of collecting rocks, below is a video of a zoo-bound chimp eventually working himself into enough of a frenzy to toss an object, possibly a rock, towards onlookers. What apparently happened is someone threw an object into the chimp’s enclosure and the chimp returned fire. From the sound of something hitting metal, the object was hard, like a rock.

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