on November 6, 2003
More scientific in nature than most books on chimpanzees, the editors have compiled a series of papers written by noted primatologists on the subject of chimpanzee culture. The book is divided into sections: Ecology, Social Relations, and Cognition. With articles titled like "Biobehavorial Roots of Language: A Comparative Perspective of Chimpanzee, Child, and Culture," you know you aren't reading a book intended for the mass market. These papers often contain objective measures of the authors' studies represented in graphs and charts, with minimal photographic illustration. However, for anyone researching the details of chimpanzee culture, this book offers a wealth of insight from a variety of sources.
I recommend this book only for those seriously interested in chimpanzees and primate social structure. Others will find this book too dry and scientific, especially when compared to the more anecdotal books written by Jane Goodall.
on January 21, 2012
History is replete with pronouncements about human uniqueness. One by one, the categorical distinctions fall. We cannot even exclude the possibility that something like culture exists among other species. Chimpanzees, our closest primate relatives, exhibit population-specific behavioral diversity that borders on cultural variation. Geographically distinct populations enjoy veritable traditions in styles of grooming, feeding, and use of tools. This excellent volume introduces the state of the art in primatology. Its lessons are worth learning. There can be no philosophical understanding of what it means to be human apart from understanding what it means to be chimpanzee.
This review originally appeared in Common Knowledge, vol. 4 (2) (1995)