On Chimpanzee Dormitories and Early Hominid Home Sites

by Adriaan Kortlandt
On Chimpanzee Dormitories and Early Hominid Home Sites
Adriaan Kortlandt
Current Anthropology
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Volume 33, Number 4, August-October 1992 1399

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.. ....................... ......a:

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manca [I niilam cekappu 2terms

FIG. 3. Approximate description by brightness and hue of referents of the three simple Paliyan brightness terms.

TABLE I CASSON, RONALD W. n.d. Color shift: The evolution of English Meanings of the Three Simple Paliyan basic color terms. MS.

CONKLIN, HAROLD C. 1973. Color categorization. American

Brightness Terms

Anthropologist 75 :931-42. GARDNER. P. M. 1966. Ethnoscience and universal domains: A culturk withou; color categories. MS.

Term Brightness Hues Included

HALL, JOHN R. C. 1960. 4th edition. A concise Anglo-Saxon dictionarv. With a su~olementby Herbert D. Meritt. Cambridge: cambridge ~nkersitypress.

manca relatively bright (B, C, D) red, orange, yellow, KAY, PAUL, AND CHAD K. MCDANIEL. 1978 The linguistic green, and gray significance of the meanings of basic color terms. Language

niilam intermediate (E, F) red, orange, green, blue, 54:610-46. and gray


cekappu relatively dark (F, G, red, green, blue, violet, Middle English dictionary. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan

H, 1) and gray Press. LERNER, L. L. 195I. Colour words in Anglo-Saxon. Modern Language Review 46:246-49. MACLAURY, ROBERT E. 1987 Color-category evolution and

existence of two conspicuous outliers (i.e., the seem-

Shuswap yellow-with-green.American Anthropologist ingly inconsistent use of cekappu for Dg and C26). Ce-89:107-24.

kappu was elicited once for each from a single consul

tant, so there is a ~ossibilitvthat each is the result of

inve'stigator or consultant error. It was my understand

ing, at least, that the former case involved description


1992. From brightness to hue: An explanatory model of ~~l~r-~ateg~ryev0l~ti0n.CURRENT ANTHROPOLOGY 33:I37-86,

MEAD, WILLIAM E. 1899. Color in Old English poetry. Publi

cation of the Modern Language Association of America 14:


of the buff wall of a building and the latter [avolunteered


response) description of the shirt I was hearing. It is clear that, with the exception of these two cases, the referents for each sim~lebrightness term share a certain level of brightness an2 stradvdle a substantial portion of the spectrum. The meanings of the three terms are summarized in table I. Taken together, they are like three ribbons of different brightness which run across the spectrum side by side in a way rarely encountered in either color or brightness systems.

References Cited

BARLEY, NIGEL F. 1974. Old English colour classification: Where do matters stand?Anglo-Saxon England 3:15-28.

BERLIN, BRENT, AND PAUL KAY. 1969 Basic color terms: Their universality and evolution. Berkeley: University of California Press.

-1991. Paperback edition. Basic color terms. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. BOSWORTH, JOSEPH, AND T. N. TOLLER. 1882-. An Anglo-Saxon dictionary. Oxford: Clarendon Press. BURNLEY, J. D. 1976. Middle English colour terminology and lexical structure. Linguistische Berichte 41:39-49.

MURRAY, JAMES A. H. Editor. 1933. The Oxford English dictionary. 13 vols. London: Oxford University Press. SWEET, HENRY. 1981 (1896).The student's dictionary of Anglo-Saxon. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

On Chimpanzee Dormitories and Early Hominid Home Sites


88 Woodstock Rd., Oxford OX2 7ND, England.

18 IV 92

Concentration and clumping of chimpanzee nests are caused by other factors in addition to those recognised by Sept and her discussants (CA 33:I 87-207). During surveys of chimpanzee habitats in ten African countries in 1960-86 I often found high concentrations of chimpanzee nests on sites offering a wide view over the surrounding landscape, such as the upper parts of steep


hills, promontories, escarpments, ridges, forest edges, narrow gallery forests, and isolated groups of trees. Ex- amples were, in Guinea, a palm grove on a peninsula southwest of Menguea, surrounded by mangroves and the sea (one chimpanzee there had eaten dates while seated facing the sea on a rock [Kortlandt photos 65.2.22-291, the gallery forest in Plantation Letessier, a ridge behind Plantation Kanka-Sili (photos 73174.1.26- 30), the sacred hill of Bossou (Kortlandt 1986)~ and the promontory of the Mont des Genies southwest of the IFAN Laboratory at Ziela; in Congo, a gallery forest 20 km southwest of Kibangou (photos 64.13.30-34); in Zalre, the sacred hill of Boikene, near Beni (Kortlandt 1962)~and the forest ridge along the new road to Kisan- gani west of Beni; and in Uganda, a group of trees in Kibona Swamp (photos 64.6.31-35) and on the forest edge along Lake Kyasanduka (photos 64.6.24-26), both in Queen Elizabeth National Park. Moore (pp. 198-99) reports the same for Ugalla in Tanzania. Similar, older reports were from Mont Tonkoui in the Ivory Coast (Au- breville 1938; J. L. Tournier, personal communication, 1960)) Mont Hoyo in Zaire (name of informant lost, per- sonal communication, 1960) and perhaps also Nissen's (1931:40) observations in Guinea.

In all these areas the apes were protected by native religious taboos and did not need to hide their nests. In Guinea, chimpanzees even like to observe human activi- ties; 1 saw two of them sitting in a tree near a main road, watching the passing traffic. Many nests were noticed alongside the highways, particularly in oil palms whose crowns had been "pruned" by apes eating the young shoots. In that country in the past a symbiosis between chimpanzees and humans may have existed because the former were better spotters and the latter better killers of leopards and lions (Kortlandt 1972).

I suggest that chimpanzees that prefer to build their nests in belvedere trees choose these sites mainly in or- der to be well-placed to watch out for potential dangers, such as hostile chimpanzee communities, leopards, and human hunters. On the sacred hill near Beni the highest concentrations of nests seemed to be located on the western side, whence the apes could see their paths to the forest, and on the eastern side, whence in the eve- ning they could watch events in the village at the foot of the hill while it was lit by oil lamps (apparently the ape's equivalent of watching television). However, there were also many nests within the forest that had no such view. Individual differences were evident, an extreme case being a female that once built her nest high in the crown of the tallest tree on the wind-swept top of the hill near Beni, on the Congo-Nile watershed, where se- vere rain and hail storms were common (Kortlandt and

S. Trevor, personal observation).

From all this I would conclude that wide views allowing early detection of dangers are an important fac- tor determining the location of at least some chimpan- zee dormitory sites. If the same applied to PlioIPleisto- cene hominids, one would expect their home sites to have been predominantly located on hilltops and on is- lands, just like the medieval castles along the Rhine. In such sites the chances of subsequent fossilisation and archaeological conservation in situ would be low. In this context the question of how the early hominids could have protected themselves against large carnivores and hostile tribes (Kortlandt 1980) is entirely ignored by Sept and her discussants. The risk of predation by leopards is probably the most important reason that chimpanzees build their nests in trees; these nests are sometimes high above the ground, sometimes low, but virtually always above a leopard's jumping height. The nest itself appar- ently serves as a fence (Kortlandt 1972). However, in some areas where gorillas occur, up to about 30% of the chimpanzee nests may be found on the ground (Bolwig 195 9; J. de Medina, personal communication, 1960). One wonders if the presence of gorillas indirectly protects the chimpanzees.

Apart from the view, a main factor determining the location and distribution of chimpanzee nests is, of course, the suitability of the trees for nest building. It is generally known that tropical forests show quite irregu- lar and often clumped distributions of tree species and tree heights within relatively small areas, in contrast to their more homogeneous patterns in most savanna woodlands. Consequently, maps of the locations of chimpanzee nests in quadrats of 50 x 50 m as in Sept's figures 1-4 cannot readily be interpreted unless they are plotted on a corresponding map of tree species and heights and are accompanied by arboreal vegetation pro- files of the same transects. Moreover, Sept's figure 4 is enigmatic because it shows nests in places where the profile shows no trees. Finally, 50 x 50 m quadrats are too small; in the Kigezi Game Reserve adjoining Sept's study area there are individual fig trees whose crowns largely fill a 50 x 50 m quadrat (Kortlandt photo 64.~26)~

although in the Ishasha gallery forest the tree crowns generally cover smaller areas. Overall, I am not convinced that evidence from chimpanzee nest-site dis- tribution can validate or invalidate the evidence sug- gesting early hominid home bases, since we do not even know whether these hominids protected themselves from carnivores by spending the nights in tree nests or in ground shelters made of thorn branches.

At the Beni dormitory site in 1960 and 1963 the num- bers of chimpanzees seen on their way uphill in the af- ternoon or descending in the morning varied from day to day, ranging from just a few to 49 at a time, with an average of about 15-20 on days when I was in a hide offering a good overview of the paths. The average time during which a nest at Beni remained recognisable may be estimated at about 111 days (Ghighlieri 1984); the climate and vegetation are similar to those of the Kibale Forest. Therefore, if the apes had built new nests every night (discounting the babies and toddlers sleeping with their mothers) there should have been some zoo-z,ooo chimpanzee nests on the hill. However, in 1960 I counted only 149. It follows therefore that, owing to a shortage of suitable trees for nesting, the nests were used on average for at least several nights. Early hominids in the Plio/Pleistocene environments in East Africa, where trees were much scarcer than in a rain forest, may thus have been forced to build semipermanent shelters, that is, home bases, either in trees or on the ground. Popula-

Volume 33, Number 4, August-October 1992 / 401

tions of parasites may have been an unavoidable and counterselective consequence of such semipermanent shelters.

References Cited

AUBREVILLE,A. 1938 La for2t coloniale. Annales, Academie
des Sciences Coloniales 9.

GHIGLIERI,M. P. 1984. The chimpanzees of Kibale Forest. New York: Columbia University Press. KORTLANDT,A. 1962. Chimpanzees in the wild. Scientific American 206:128-38. -. 1972. New perspectives of ape and human evolution. Amsterdam: Stichting voor Psychobiologie.

-. 1980. How might early hominids have defended them- selves against large predators and food competitors? [ournal of Human Evolution 9:79-I 12.

-. 1986. The use of stone tools by wild-llvlng chimpanzees and early hominids. [ournal of Human Evolution I 5 :77-132. MOORE,T. 1992. Comment on: Was there no place like home?

by J. Sept. CURRENT ANTHROPOLOGY 3 3: 198-99. NISSEN, H. W. 1931. A field study of the chimpanzee. Compara- tive Psychology Monographs 8:I-105.

BOLWIG,N. 1959. A study of the nests built by mountain go-
rilla and chimpanzee. South African [ournal of Science 55:

On Stable Isotopic Data and Prehistoric Subsistence in the Soconusco Region


Department of Anthropology, University of Illinois, 109 Davenport Hall, 607 S. Mathews Ave., Urbana,

111. 61801, U.S.A. 7 11 92

Blake et al.'s (CA 3 3 : 8 3-94) dietary reconstruction with isotopic analyses of human bone collagen from the Soconusco region employs many samples that do not meet the minimum criteria for identification as well- preserved collagen. Although the authors are aware of the most widely used criterion for identification of con- tamination and/or diagenetic alteration of collagen (the

set an undesirable precedent for ignoring well-established criteria for the evaluation of isotopic analy- ses and (2)suggested temporal and geographical distinc- tions in subsistence patterns that are not supported by isotopic data.
The Costa Rica and Panama samples were analyzed with major grants to Lynette Norr from the Wenner-Gren Foundation for An- thropological Research and the National Science Foundation (BNS 8407181) and grants to Stanley Ambrose from the Wenner-Gren Foundation and the University of Illinois Research Board for iso- tope laboratory equipment. Nancy Sikes provided useful sugges- tions for improving the paper.

Before stable isotope ratios of bone collagen can be

used for dietary reconstruction it is necessary to deter-

mine whether the extracted residue is free of postmor-

tem and endogenous contaminants and actually con-

tains collagen. Tropical environments are particularly

challenging because collagen degrades relatively rapidly

where it is hot (Ambrose 1990, Norr 1991). The human

bones from the Soconusco region appear to have suffered

collagen degradation, and the methods used to extract

collagen in this study do not ensure the removal of an

important class of postburial contaminants. Therefore

the majority of samples analyzed by Blake et al. cannot

be used for dietary reconstruction, and those that can be

so used may yield slightly inaccurate results.

The literature on collagen preparation and purifica- tion procedures and identification of contamination prior to isotopic analysis is now substantial (see Am- brose 1990 for a review). Collagen must be relatively free of contaminants such as lipids (fats), carbonates, particu- late plant matter, and humic acids before accurate and precise dietary interpretations can be made. Lipids have more negative and carbonates less negative 613C values than collagen. The 613C values of rootlets and humic acids depend on those of the flora that have grown on the site (Ambrose and Sikes 1991). In bones with very little original collagen, even small amounts of such con- taminants can substantially alter its stable isotopic composition and compromise the subsistence interpre- tations that follow.

A simple three-step procedure can remove carbonates, lipids, humic acids, and particulate matter from colla- gen: (I)treatment with 0.2 M or 1.0 M hydrochloric acid to remove bone mineral and carbonates, (2) treatment with dilute (o.1~5 M) sodium hydroxide to remove hu- mic acids, most lipids, and other base-soluble contami- nants, and (3) solubilization by heating to 95" C followed by filtration or centrifugation to remove particulate con- taminants (Ambrose 1990). Fresh bone contains substan- tial amounts of fats, and therefore pretreatment with organic solvents is recommended (Chisholm et al. 1983). The resulting residue is often referred to as gelatin; we prefer the term "collagen" (in quotes) because it may be mainly collagen but may also contain small amounts of noncollagenous bone proteins, postmortem contaminants, and/or inorganic residues (Ambrose 1990). Chis- holm et al. (1983) have argued that the use of sodium hydroxide may unnecessarily degrade collagen, but their arguments have been effectively refuted by Kennedy (1988); the loss of a small amount of collagen is prefera- ble to the retention of lipid and humic contaminants (Ambrose I 990). In the Soconusco environment, humic contaminants are likely to be derived mainly from dicot- yledonous C3 plants (trees, shrubs, and forbs) and thus have 613C values more negative than those of collagen. The omission of sodium hydroxide treatment from the study means that humic and lipid contamination cannot be ruled out. Poor collagen preservation in association with contamination from soil organics derived from C, flora would obscure dietary 13C derived from C4 (maize) and marine

A number of methods for characterizing collagen and

C : N ratio of the organic residue extracted from bone), they have chosen to ignore it. Fortunately, they provide data (in their table I) that permit the informed reader to assess the validity of the results. Nonetheless, by not discarding samples of questionable integrity they have

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