Scientists Have Captured Chimpanzees Performing a Bizarre Ritual


Chimpanzees in Guinea-Bissau, Côte d’Ivoire (also known as the Ivory Coast), and Liberia, all located in West Africa, have been seen engaging in peculiar behavior. The cavities of the trees stockpile a significant quantity of rocks.

The next step is for an adult male to select one of the rocks, go some distance away, mutter some phrase, and throw the rock at the tree to carve a mark into its bark. After that, the stone is positioned to fit back into the hollow and be utilized again.

There have been no observations of chimps found east of these nations engaging in this behavior. In addition, there does not appear to be any survival-related justification.

It has nothing to do with obtaining food, mating, or advancing one’s position in any way whatsoever. Researchers speculate that it might be a distinctive display of male authority, a spiritual rite, or perhaps a ceremony that marks the boundary of their troop’s territory.

The research was carried out by eighty researchers from different countries, all under the direction of Hjalmar S. Kuhl and Ammie K. Kalan. Kuhl and Kalan are alumni of the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Germany.

The research group placed camera traps in four isolated areas of West Africa. There, they captured films of chimpanzees engaging in a particular behavior that, to this day, has not been well explained. Their findings were presented in a paper published in the Nature devoted to Scientific Reports section.

However, they have never been seen engaging in activity that is unrelated to that which is necessary for their existence. The researchers observed that this so-called ceremonial activity spread over the armies in which males had previously participated, with a few girls also partaking in it.

So, might it be some religious rite? The researchers who work with Kuhl and Kalan’s team have compared the rock pilings to the cairns that the native inhabitants of these places traditionally construct.

Cairns are heaps of rocks that may be used in various contexts. Since the beginning of human history, people have been creating them. They can be used to indicate the location of a battle or as a monument, as a marker for a cemetery site, to define a holy spot, as a boundary of territory, as a signpost on a path, and for a variety of other purposes. As a result of this finding, these four locations, formerly chimpanzee viewing areas, are now primate archaeological sites.

The biological anthropologist, Craig Stanford of the University of Southern California, has spent significant time conducting field research on chimpanzees. In an interview with The Atlantic, he stated that many different reasons people cast stones.

He laughed at the notion that this may be some religious observance. In an interview with The Atlantic, he stated, ” “Ritualized behavior is common in the animal world, and chimpanzees throw stones in many contexts.” Some people believe that it is not as implausible as it first seems.

Laurie Santos, a primate cognitive psychologist at Yale, Smithsonian Magazine interviewed, said that such behavior “fits the criteria of proto-ritualistic.” However, she is concerned that neither she nor we know the correct way to understand this conduct nor the circumstances surrounding it.

It has been demonstrated that these giant apes were capable of creative and imaginative behavior in the past, both in captivity and in the wild. Young female chimpanzees, for instance, have been seen to carry about a stick and treat it with the same level of care as if it were a doll.

Chimpanzees can empathize with one another and adhere to the rules their peers impose. On the other hand, there is no evidence to support the existence of any spiritual beliefs. Does the potential arise as a result of these other humanlike behaviors?

Dr. Jane Goodall, a world-renowned primatologist, spent most of her career in Gombe, Tanzania, researching chimpanzees. She frequently uses the word “holy” to describe them, although they are one of our closest ancestors (along with bonobos).

In her study, she explained why chimpanzees are seen dancing around waterfalls and staring with rapt attention during large storms that contain wind and rain. She questioned her hypothesis by asking, ” Why wouldn’t they also have feelings of some kind of spirituality?”

Primate archaeology is still relatively new, but it is expanding quickly. Some researchers believe that chimps and other tool-using primates are experiencing their very own Stone Age, which has been going on for some time.

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