Do Non-Human Primates Have Culture?

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Do Non-Human Primates Have Culture?
September 26, 2011
Andrew Baron
Do non-human primates have culture? Let’s first start off by asking ourselves; what distinguishes us from other primates? It used to be said that what distinguished us from other anthropoids was our use of tools. With new discoveries in the world of anthropology, we found that other apes such as chimpanzees use tools effectively in order to sustain their everyday life. This definition then became nullified, and a search for a new distinguishing feature became necessary. To most the answer was clear; humans have culture. But as we progress in the world of science and technology, new evidence has become more and more prominent that maybe this has been disproven once again, and maybe we aren’t the only ones in the animal kingdom with culture after all.

So, what is culture? Up until the last few years, humans were supposedly the only living beings to have culture, therefore it is difficult to find a true definition as nearly all contain the word “human” or “people.” But to some them all up, culture is distinguishing actions, attitudes, feelings, values, and behavioural patterns of a particular group or population. It may seem like humans are the only primates that can fit this definition, but new surprising discoveries say otherwise.

As already mentioned, in 1960 Jane Goodall observed a group of chimpanzee’s use of tools. This was significant because before this it was widely known that humans were the only species to use tools. This breakthrough brought much more attention to this topic and soon many more interesting observations were made. More similarities between the culture of humans and the possible culture of chimpanzees quickly arose. Many chimpanzees have been seen using sticks as spears to kill young lemurs, or using sticks to lure bugs out of the ground, but even more surprisingly, chimpanzees have also been noted to take part in human-like manifestations such as greetings, hugs,...
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