"An ape's view of the oldowan" revisited

Thomas Wynn*, R. Adriana Hernandez-Aguilar, Linda F. Marchant, William C. McGrew

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Citations (Scopus)


In 1989, Wynn and McGrew published an explicit comparison between Oldowan technology and what was then known of chimpanzee technology.1 They compared the range and variety of tools, adaptive role of tools, carrying distances, spatial cognition, manufacturing procedures, and modes of learning. They concluded that everything archeologists had reconstructed about the behavior of Oldowan hominins could be accommodated within the ape adaptive grade; that is, a paraphyletic group united by overall similarities in anatomy and, in this case, behavior. The only Oldowan activities that were almost unknown for modern apes were the long-distance transport of objects and direct competition with carnivores, which was implied by meat acquisition activities. "In its general features Oldowan culture was ape, not human. Nowhere in this picture need we posit elements such as language, extensive sharing, division of labor, or pair-bonded families, all of which are part of the baggage carried by the term human" 1:394.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-197
Number of pages17
JournalEvolutionary Anthropology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 27 Oct 2011


  • Adaptive grade
  • Chimpanzee
  • Early hominins
  • Material culture
  • Technology


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