Material Culture in Primates

Tatyana Humle

in The Oxford Handbook of Material Culture Studies

Published in print September 2010 | ISBN: 9780199218714
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Archaeology

Material Culture in Primates

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  • Archaeology
  • History and Theory of Archaeology



This article focuses on the idea of material culture in primates. The ascription of culture to non-human animals has been controversial and a source of much debate. Much of this debate hinges on the definition of culture. This article cites the classic definition by Tylor which says that culture as ‘that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society’. The term ‘culture’ was first used in relation to non-human primates by Kummer. This article explains elementary technology among primates which concerns predominantly subsistence behaviours, expressed in, often complex, foraging techniques. Elementary technology among wild primates is typically based on natural materials, whether vegetation or non-organic matter. The various processes involved in the transmission of material culture are explained in detail. An in-depth analysis of the conditions of material culture followed by a study of culture among primates concludes this article.

Keywords: material culture; primates; culture; morals; customs; culture among primates

Article.  6580 words. 

Subjects: Archaeology ; History and Theory of Archaeology

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