In addition to their genetic relatedness to extant humans (Friday 2000; Marks 2000, 2003; Sibley 2000), chimpanzees have often been seen as extant behavioural reflections of earlier hominids, perhaps even of a Late Miocene common ancestor (Goodall 1990). In addition to this, my rationale for beginning with chimpanzee morbidity and mortuary activity is rooted in their numerous similarities with extant humans such as organisation in large social groups, a high degree of sociality, a theory of mind and potential language use. In particular, the apparent ‘cultural’ variation in tool use and other behaviours noted in chimpanzees (e.g. McGrew 1992; Boesch et al. 1994; Whiten et al. 1999) and orang-utans (Van Schaik et al. 2003), which apparently varies independently of environmental and ecological contexts, makes higher primates a particularly useful source of background data from which to begin an enquiry of this nature. Only for chimpanzees is there a suitable body of observation from which generalisations can be made.