Intellectual curiosity towards our origins and evolution has always played a central role in the history of humankind. Stone tools offer an archaeological record of our behavioural and cultural evolution since ~ 3.3 mya. Stone tool use is extremely rare in primates, only five out of several hundred primate species have evolved to use stone tools. Very little is known about the evolution of tool use in other primate species besides our own. Comparative studies across the primate order, in extant and extinct species, provides the exceptional opportunity to unveil which social and ecological variables influenced the emergence and development of tool use. My work integrates new approaches that synthesise field and laboratory-based methods derived from the disciplines of primatology, archaeology, genetics, robotics and comparative psychology.
Using natural observations of stone tool use, controlled field experiments in the wild and excavations of tool sites I have previously built up background knowledge on the technological behaviour of each tool using species. My current research focuses on comparisons between all tool using primates, past and present. I have built an extensive network bridging field sites of extant technological primates and archaeological sites of ancestral humans to comprehensively study the origin and evolution of tool use. Cross-cultural experiments using similar raw materials between primate species are valuable to directly compare material selection, foraging efficiency and use wear development on stone tools. This approach is providing insight into species specific behaviour as well as universal tool behaviour pattern and the resulting artefacts could help interpret diversity in the hominin archaeological record. Biomechanical experiments under standardized laboratory conditions using robots complement our understanding of intentional damage on raw material.
This comparative approach allows for comprehensive investigations of tool behaviour across species, environments and time.
Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow, Institute for Evolutionary Anthroplogy, Universtiy of Oxford, United Kingdom
DPZ Award Fellow, German Primate Center, Göttingen, Germany.
Post-doctoral Researcher, School of Archaeology, University of Oxford, United Kingdom.
Research Scientist, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany
Doctoral studies, supervised by Prof. Christophe Boesch, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany.
Scientific advisor, DisneyNature “The Chimpanzee”
Volunteer, Chimpanzee Conservation Center, Haute Niger National Park, Guinea
Primate enrichment coordinator, Wildlife Waystation, Sylmar, California.
Research assistant, H.E.L.P. Congo, Chimpanzee Sanctuary, National Park Conkouati-Douli, Republic of Congo.
PhD, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and University of Leipzig, Germany. (Grade: summa cum laude).
M.Sc, Evolutionary Biology,
University of Constance, Germany.
B.Sc, Biology, University of Constance, Germany.