chapter  10
10 Pages

How the chimpanzee stole culture, or lessons learned from labours in cultural primatology


The idea that living species other than Homo sapiens might be cultural dates at least to Morgan (1868), who championed the beaver as a candidate for culturebearer. In the social sciences, academic engagement with the possibility of animal culture cropped up fleetingly throughout most of the twentieth century. An early example was Kroeber’s (1928) response to reading of the intellectual feats of captive chimpanzees, in Koehler’s (1927) monograph, The Mentality of Apes. Kroeber devised a list of six criteria, which if met by the apes, would convince him to grant them cultural status. Both died before the age of modern field primatology, but their views were prophetic.