The Cultured Chimpanzee

Reflections on Cultural Primatology

The Cultured Chimpanzee

Short of inventing a time machine, we will never see our extinct forebears in action and be able to determine directly how human behaviour and culture has developed. However, we can learn from our closest living relatives, the African great apes. The Cultured Chimpanzee explores the astonishing variation in chimpanzee behavior across their range, which cannot be explained by individual learning, genetic or environmental influences. It promotes the view that this rich diversity in social life and material culture reflects social learning of traditions, and more closely resembles cultural variety in humans than the simpler behavior of other animal species. This stimulating book shows that the field of cultural primatology may therefore help us to reconstruct the cultural evolution of Homo sapiens from earlier forms, and that it is essential for anthropologists, archaeologists and zoologists to work together to develop a stronger understanding of human and primate cultural evolution. • First book to provide a synthetic analysis of chimpanzee culture, covering both material and social culture • Models the origins and evolution of human culture using our closest living relatives, the chimpanzees • A significant and stimulating book which examines how anthropology, animal behavior and psychology must come together to truly understand the basis for human and animal culture


"This is an accessible, balanced, and insightful text. Highly recommended." CHOICE June 2005

"...McGrew makes his case deftly, and his ideas are intellectually stimulating." American Scientist, Michelle Merrill

"After 30 years of studying chimpanzees in their African habitats, McGrew is the right author for this highly readable update. He writes from first-hand knowledge of many of the behaviors he describes, and his love for the subject is apparent from the first page. The book is written in a very accessible, conversational style, with few technical terms and no statistical data...It is an honest personal view of cultural primatology, and it is an interesting read." - American Journal of Human Biology

"[the author] creates a unique framework for drawing scattered data together, there by clarifying what is known and what is not yet known. His logic and his trains of thought are extremely clear. The text is simple to follow, even for non-English readers, and yet the messages are stimulating, heuristic and reach deep into the heart of the matter … McGrew's Chimpanzee Material Culture (1992) is already recognized as one of primatology's classic textbooks and this 2004 follow-up should receive similarly wide attention and become another milestone in the study of the evolutionary basis of human culture." - Nature

"One of the attractive features of this book, as was true of the earlier volume by the same author (McGrew, 1992), is its comprehensive coverage of related studies. … This book provides a wide range of references related to cultural primatology, and although this book is about chimpanzee cultures, McGrew also reviews the behavioural diversities and social learning of fish, birds, mammals, cetaceans, capuchin monkeys, macaques, and other great apes in Chapters 4 and 5. It serves as a handy textbook for discovering the frontier studies into animal culture and related areas. … Easily the most important factor is that one needs to know chimpanzees well in order to protect them. McGrew, without doubt, is one of the most knowledgeable." - Primates

"… the review of various chimpanzee behaviours and differences between populations was very interesting. … I enjoyed this book and found it informative and thought provoking. It should appeal not just to primatologists, but also to members of those disciplines … for whom the study of chimpanzee culture would be of interest." - Primate Eye

"This book is particularly interesting for those working in anthropology, zoology, archaeology and psychology." - Biologist

No references available.