The manual skills and cognition that lie behind hominid tool use

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Tool use is an important aspect of being human that has assumed a central place in accounts of the evolutionary origins of human intelligence. This has inevitably focused a spotlight on any signs of tool use or manufacture in great apes and other non-human animals, to the relative neglect of skills that do not involve tools. The aim of this chapter is to explore whether this emphasis is appropriate. Could it be that we may learn as much about the origin of human intelligence from skilled manual behaviour in general? Suppose we take this broader view, accepting evidence from all manifestations of manual skill, what can we learn of the mental capacities of the great apes and ourselves? My own ultimate purpose is to use comparative evidence from living species to reconstruct the evolutionary history of the many cognitive traits that came together to make human psychology. The cognition of great apes is the obvious starting point, to trace the more primitive (i.e. ancient) cognitive aptitudes that are still important to us today. In this chapter, I focus on great ape cognition as it is expressed in manual skills, based on cognitive aspects of tool use and manufacture considered significant in the human evolutionary lineage.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe evolution of thought
Subtitle of host publicationEvolutionary origins of great ape intelligence
EditorsAnne E. Russon, David R. Begun
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780511192166
ISBN (Print)9780521783354, 9780521039925
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • Tool use
  • Hominid intelligence
  • Development
  • Evolution
  • Great ape
  • Cognition
  • Animal intelligence
  • Apes


Dive into the research topics of 'The manual skills and cognition that lie behind hominid tool use'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this