Since its inception, archaeology has traditionally focused exclusively on humans and our direct ancestors. However, recent years have seen archaeological techniques applied to material evidence left behind by non-human animals. Here, we review advances made by the most prominent field investigating past non-human tool use: primate archaeology. This field combines survey of wild primate activity areas with ethological observations, excavations and analyses that allow the reconstruction of past primate behaviour. Because the order Primates includes humans, new insights into the behavioural evolution of apes and monkeys also can be used to better interrogate the record of early tool use in our own, hominin, lineage. This work has recently doubled the set of primate lineages with an excavated archaeological record, adding Old World macaques and New World capuchin monkeys to chimpanzees and humans, and it has shown that tool selection and transport, and discrete site formation, are universal among wild stone-tool-using primates. It has also revealed that wild capuchins regularly break stone tools in a way that can make them difficult to distinguish from simple early hominin tools. Ultimately, this research opens up opportunities for the development of a broader animal archaeology, marking the end of archaeology’s anthropocentric era.

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Funding was received from European Research Council Starting Grant no. 283959 (Primate Archaeology) awarded to M.H.

Author information


  1. Primate Archaeology Research Group, University of Oxford, Oxford, OX1 3QY, UK

    • Michael Haslam
    • , Tomos Proffitt
    •  & Alejandra Pascual-Garrido
  2. Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis, University of Oslo, Oslo, NO-0316, Norway

    • R. Adriana Hernandez-Aguilar
  3. Institute of Archaeology, University College London, London, WC1H 0PY, UK

    • Adrian Arroyo
  4. Institute of Psychology, University of São Paulo, São Paulo, CEP 05508-030, Brazil

    • Tiago Falótico
    •  & Eduardo B. Ottoni
  5. Department of Psychology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, 30602, USA

    • Dorothy Fragaszy
  6. Division of Psychology, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, 637332, Singapore

    • Michael Gumert
    •  & Amanda Tan
  7. Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, 10330, Thailand

    • Michael Gumert
    •  & Suchinda Malaivijitnond
  8. Anthropology Department, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, 08901, USA

    • John W. K. Harris
  9. Primate Research Institute, Kyoto University, Inuyama, 484-8506, Japan

    • Michael A. Huffman
  10. Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, 04103, Leipzig, Germany

    • Ammie K. Kalan
  11. Institute for Advanced Study, Kyoto University, Kyoto, 606-8501, Japan

    • Tetsuro Matsuzawa
  12. School of Psychology & Neuroscience, University of St Andrews, Fife, KY16 9JP, UK

    • William McGrew
  13. School of Natural Sciences and Psychology, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, L3 3AF, UK

    • Alex Piel
    •  & Fiona Stewart
  14. Department of Anthropology, Iowa State University, Ames, IA, 50011, USA

    • Jill Pruetz
  15. Department of Anthropology, University of Zürich, Zürich, 8057, Switzerland

    • Caroline Schuppli
  16. Department of Anthropology, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, 03755-3529, USA

    • Amanda Tan
  17. Istituto di Scienze e Tecnologie della Cognizione, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Rome, 00197, Italy

    • Elisabetta Visalberghi
  18. School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography, University of Oxford, Oxford, OX2 6PE, UK

    • Lydia V. Luncz


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M.H., R.A.H.-A., L.V.L. and T.P. conceived the paper. M.H. wrote the paper, with contributions from all other authors. T.P. prepared the figures, with assistance from M.H.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Correspondence to Michael Haslam.

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