Can chimpanzees have rituals?

Scientists manage to film repetitive behavior carried out by various chimpanzees: they all throw stones at the same tree. At this point, Anthropology and the study of the evolution of culture ask: Can chimpanzees have rituals?

Without humans to distract the chimpanzees, several cameras have recorded this event, each chimpanzee picks up a stone and throws it in the same tree, so that the rocks accumulate at the foot of it. What does that pile of rocks at the foot of the tree mean? That is a question to which we have not yet found an answer, but this emptiness does not cloud the exciting knowledge that we have acquired from the videos.

In a way, there is something that researchers have not seen before, and that is that such behavior is almost always carried out exclusively by adult males, although adult females and younger individuals have also been observed. However, what everyone does without distinction of sex is, when throwing the stones, emit the same vocal patterns, which allows us to glimpse that the behavior is associated with communication with other individuals. On the other hand, if we pay attention to the youngest individual, it is likely that their behavior only obeys a childish intention of imitation.

Chimpanzee rituals

The alternative to a form of communication for the purpose of rock stacking is the claim to mark somewhere for some reason, just as we form stone cairns.

In spite of everything, there is an element of the research in disagreement with the knowledge that is available, and that is that there are experiments in which, captive chimpanzees, contrary to what humans do, that is nothing more than to settle for copying behaviors of other humans although we cannot see what object is behind it, the apes, as I say, just want to addressstraight to said object. This makes it difficult ritualistic behaviors.

Chimpanzee rituals, or human rituals?

The problem with the newly introduced experiment is that it pretends that chimpanzees imitate humans, when they may be more reluctant to imitate humans than their species mates. On the other hand, and perhaps here is the catch, the chimpanzees in the experiment are captive, while those who have been recorded in the research covered in this article are not.

In a way, evidence to guide our thinking to the belief that certain apes can participate in rituals are still inconclusive But, who knows, perhaps it is a primitive form of animism, we will have to continue giving science time.

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