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Date: Tue, 22 Jul 1997 04:28:25 +0100
Reply-To: Nold Egenter
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From: Nold Egenter
Subject: THE HAND WAS THE FIRST TOOL
To: ANTHRO-L@LISTSERV.ACSU.BUFFALO.EDU<


To all those who remained at their cool and shady working place,
I had started this text some time ago, stimulated by thentime discussions
of tool-using behavior. Now, many have left to the beaches......
...probably not really a summer-topic, but...
I wonder whether we will get some response regarding the following hypothesis:


THE HAND WAS THE FIRST TOOL


In this provoking formula 'tool' is defined as a 'means' of the hand for producing a result, a transformation of the natural environment or an artefact. This definition allows the question: can we consider the hand as a 'means' which produces transformations or artefacts?

Surprisingly this question touches an enormous amount of material culture: fibroconstructive industries (basketry etc.). In ethnology this type of industry may quantiatively reach up to 99% of the outfit in terms of material culture of an ethnic unit. Theoretically these industries have been greatly neglected, mainly because they were not durable. They lacked the 'aura' of temporal 'deep-structure'. However, in an 'ethno-(pre-)historical 'system' of material culture they are important. They unveil a highly speculative potential in the conventional archaeological method! The essential processes of cultural evolution might have happened in that part of material culture which was not durable!

Even more surprisingly, there is a quite different range of phenomena, which corresponds to the above definition 'hand the primary tool': the nestbuilding behavior of the great apes.

In their book 'The Great Apes' (1929) the American primatologists' couple, the Yerkes had compiled all observation materials available at that time on the topic of 'pongid nestbuilding behavior'. They for the first time scientifically termed nestbuilding as "constructivity" and theoretically placed it at the beginning of an evolutionary process. Their conclusion: "...nesting behavior illustrates the appearance and phylogenetic development of dependence on self-adjustment to increasing dependence on manipulation or modification of environments as a method of behavioural adaptation." (Yerkes 1929:564; see also Egenter 1983, 1987).

Unfortunately this very important suggestion finished up in a blind alley within anthropology, cultural as well as physical. In spite of its artefact character emphasised by the Yerkes, nestbuilding was later continuously classified as social behavior in primatology, the 'artificial' component was completely neglected. As part of social behavior, of course, the nest could not compete with the toolmaker concept which is, in fact, essentially a historistic retroprojection inadequately inflating a very secondary aspect. Among all pongids, the nest is much more important than the use of 'tools' in the conventional sense. In addition: related to nestbuilding, the hand was the most important 'tool' in the above sense.


NESTBUILDING BEHAVIOR
PROVIDES
MUCH MORE PROTO-CULTURAL INFORMATION
THAN
TOOL-USING BEHAVIOR


The nests of the higher apes offer much more protocultural information than the endlessly discussed observations regarding 'tool-using behavior' among pongids such as 'reaching out for bananas', 'ant-fishing', 'nut-cracking' etc.. In the following some important points:

Thus, the groundnest is clearly an architectural prototype with a fundamental significance for pongid life. As an artefact it lists completely under the above definition: the hand is the primary tool. It outlines an evidently primary industry with fibroconstructive characteristics.

On the basis of evolutionary processes of constructivity, the appearance of early tools (in the conventional sense) could now also indicate an increasing divergence of formerly united topological aspects of growth ('production') and constructive use of - rooted - materials ('building'). Increasingly an element of 'collection' and transport of 'building materials' separates both. This process implies also an increasing appropriation of the result - now independent from the place of growth - as an 'artefact', as an object different from the natural environment. Increasing tool-use can also mark the extension of 'constructivity' from manipulatable to non-manipulatable fibroconstructive materials (e.g. constructions increasingly using wood).

To make it short: the nest of the great apes demonstrates the importance of the formula 'the hand can be considered as the primary tool'. The hand itself, without any artificial means, produces something of existentially eminent importance, a purely handicrafted stable wickerwork-nest and protection for a one'night's sleep.** The conventional hand-tool-effect/product relationsship observed occasionally is very insignificant in this domain.

In view of these characteristics intimately interwoven with pongid life and, on the other hand, with questions of hominid evolution, we probably had better not to forget the suggestion of the Yerkes' regarding the nestbuilding behavior of the great apes. In this context the paleolithic 'tectiformes' and similar sources might become more important than pebble tools.

Best regards to all,

Nold Egenter

______________________

** If - virtually - all the nests built by one individual ape throughout its life are piled one on top of the other, a tower results, about 14 times the height of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. It is really strange: anthropologists seem to be blind for this (Are they fixed on the toolmaker?).

For a more detailed report on nestbuilding:

http://home.worldcom.ch:80/~negenter/081NestbApes_E.html

See our INTERNET-Homepage: http://home.worldcom.ch/~negenter

Nold Egenter
DOFSBT, Chorgasse 19
CH-8001 Zuerich, Switzerland
Tel.: +41-1-2516075
Fx: +41-21-3231707
or:
e-mail: negenter@worldcom.ch


Date: Mon, 21 Jul 1997 18:06:14 -1000
From: Julia Blue
Organization: Blue Rider Services
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To: PaleoAnthro@list.pitt.edu
Subject: PalAnt: Hand the First Tool; re: Bananas
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Sent by: Julia Blue

Your mention of "reaching out for bananas" reminded me of a question I've wondered about for years. Apes are, in zoos, almost always fed bananas and other fruits. In cartoon, movies, etc., apes and bananas always go together. But do bananas even grow in the habitats which the great apes frequent? Here in Hawaii, bananas grow all over the place, but I have never seen them grow in the forest or at any altitude. Here they grown at very low altitude, where the climate is hot and humid. They seem to grow best out in the open sun. How did this cliche ape/banana thing get started, anyhow? A silly question, perhaps, but I'd still like to know.

--

MZ


Date: Tue, 22 Jul 1997 15:43:23 -0700 (PDT)
From: mike shupp
X-Sender: ms44278@csun2.csun.edu
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Subject: Re: PalAnt: THE HAND WAS THE FIRST TOOL
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Sent by: mike shupp

On Tue, 22 Jul 1997, Nold Egenter wrote:

> I wonder whether we will get some response
> regarding the following hypothesis:
> 
> THE HAND WAS THE FIRST TOOL
> 
> In this provoking formula 'tool' is defined as a 
>'means' of the hand for producing a result, a 
> transformation of the natural environment or an
> artefact. This definition allows the question: 
> can we consider the hand as a 'means' which 
> produces transformations or artefacts?
The idea that the hand allows one to manipulate the environment and that primates could do so with special skillfulness is certainly a valid one. The problem is that unaided hand has changed but little in 5 million years and that what it produces by itself as also changed little. After 2.5 million years ago, stone tools themselves appear and begin to evolve, and human culture as an "extra-somatic means of adaptation" as well. The proceding 3-4 million years was virtually without signifance.

So, personally, I don't see much advantage in calling hands "tools." Even if the suggestion were adopted, we would still need a special name for the odd but useful things we put to work in our hands.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------

ms44278@csun1.csun.edu
Mike Shupp
California State University, Northridge
Graduate Student, Dept. of Anthropology
http://www.csun.edu/~ms44278/index.htm

---------


From: ARCHIVE1@aol.com
Date: Tue, 22 Jul 1997 17:14:25 -0400 (EDT)
To: paleoanthro@list.pitt.edu
Subject: PalAnt: hand as tool
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Sent by: ARCHIVE1@aol.com

a partial reply to N.Egenter`s statement

I see a TRIANGULATIVE relation between: HAND-EYE-LANGUAGE as you indicate to proto-cultural approaches. Looking at origins of documentable communication (cave-art etc.) we found that SPEECH and ORAL-TRADITION have been the basics here. I am shure that twigs etc.have been used to pass on informations in pre-litterate and pre-painting times (indicating directions etc.) and that single scratches on ground/in sand may have been used (copying animals tracks) before any first idea arose copying such signs on cave walls with colour etc.

Culture cannot arise without communication. First schools were viy vision the copying of things other persons did (learning by imitation) and passing on of informations on details by speech. Aside from that I am sure that dancing also has been used to transport informations and that body-language and all natural signs in that context have been helping to start what we know now to be culture.

I agree with your statement that many of the small signs/informations due to their lack of duration have been lost. Anyone asking how to prove would be answered that here probabilistic models must be used and plausibility will be only way to know till invention of time-machine.

As to concept of a"tool":

Any tool is the product of a relation between several senses, here eye-mouth-hand-interaction and never a single hand alone would have been able to start any cultural tradition. This only starts to become possible when necessary informations become concentrated to a communicative-string that is being secured to loss via redundancy and multiplication and this means the use of PURPOSE. And this generally is being related to what we know to be speech/language. This means the supra-personal storage of summed-up informations that start to become knowledge via handing to next person.

Axel Thiel
int.work.group on graffiti-research
http://www.graffiti.org
ARCHIVE1@aol.com


From: ARCHIVE1@aol.com
Date: Wed, 23 Jul 1997 13:55:33 -0400 (EDT)
To: PALEOANTHRO@list.pitt.edu
Subject: PalAnt: hand as tool
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Sent by: ARCHIVE1@aol.com

a second partial reply to N.Egenter`s statement

Considering the possibilities of generation of proto-ideas I ran across the many"tool-uses"in nature that our premordial forebearers must have been WATCHING as they also must have been EXPERT TRACKERS of they could not have survived.

TOOL-ANALOGOUS FINDS.

ants carrying material
rivers transporting wood
lightning starting fire
winds/storms transporting material
winds moving clouds
coal layers burning (volcano-like) for centuries
birds building nests
insects producing cocoons etc.

The most common level of all these things/interrelations is that ONE medium is somehow MOVING another one. So it is a change of place as some pseudo-movement.It generally is a CHANGE in nature where things in their relations to other matters are being moved. At this level (natural forces) no intent may be found if intent is bound to thinking.....

So we may sum up that the PROTO-Tool we may call a force that may move...

>From here to hand that is picking up something (on one side) and the brain to try to COPY certain natural effects (on the other) via repetition (copying) (3.requirement) may have been a long way....

Since nature provided "inventions" that have been existing in PRE-hominid times I am rather reluctant to give prority to hand as first "tool" and prefer taking the eye of we extend a little meaning of a tool, as our BRAIN is the most complex TOOL ever made. But traditional education does not make us "see" this unique one.

>From the moment when hand became the main instrument to make tools (that have some pseudo-activities of their own to even make more and MORE complex ones...) human history was imminent. The other TOOL that we generally forget was/is LANGUAGE and I am sure that body-language (vision) and sounds/words also have been FORE-runners of hand-activities. It is the combination of all senses that from a certain point on so accelerated human developement that, many tens of thousands of years again became acceletated another time by 1945`s atomic-electronic revolution.

It is interesting to note that among first signs of mankind in caves we have hand/foot imprints,too. In pre-litterate times before writing existed the only way to document the single uniqueness of a person like we today sign with our "good name".

Axel Thiel
int.work-group on graffiti-research
http://www.graffiti.org/axel/index.html
ARCHIVE1@aol.com


From: "J.E.Hawcroft"
To: PaleoAnthro@list.pitt.edu
Date: Thu, 24 Jul 1997 09:02:00 +0100
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Subject: Re: PalAnt: Hand the First Tool; re: Bananas
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Sent by: "J.E.Hawcroft"

Re: your wonderings about how the ape/banana cliche came about...

I remember Jane Goodall's famous books detailing how she enticed the wild Gombe chimps towards her camp using artificial feeding. She said that she had used bananas and that, funnily enough, the cliche was true because chimps really did love bananas. This suggests that it was already well-known lore by the early Sixties when she was working there. As far as I know the Gombe chimps did not have access to bananas in the wild .

Maybe the cliche arose when zoo-keepers noticed that apes were keen on this fruit. You don't have to come from an environment where bananas are an indigenous plant in order to like them - I like them, and I live in England where it's far too cold for that.

Jennie

Jennie E. Hawcroft
Research School of Archaeology
West Court, 2 Mappin Street, Sheffield
England, S1 4DT
assemblage, the Sheffield Graduate Journal of Archaeology:
http://www.shef.ac.uk/~assem/
E: PRP95JEH@sheffield.ac.uk
Tel. (lab) 0114 22 22950
(office) 0114 22 25102


Date: Wed, 23 Jul 1997 12:28:37 EST
From: BRAD COON
To: PaleoAnthro@list.pitt.edu
Subject: RE: PalAnt: hand as tool
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Sent by: BRAD COON

If we are going to count body parts as tools, lets not forget the foot. There is a fascinating article in "Great Ape Societies" noting the use of selectively crushed vegetation to indicate food sources, travel directions, etc. by bonobos. Ref: Language Perceived: Paniscus branches out, by Savage-Rumbaugh, Williams, Furuichi, and Kano. Great Ape Societies, ed. by McGrew , Marchant, and Nishida. Cambridge Univ. Press. 1996

*******************************************************

Brad Coon
COON@CVAX.IPFW.INDIANA.EDU
http://www.ipfw.indiana.edu/east1/coon/web/index.htm
"Do'netyokit su do'sa'na'kit." (Live boldly but wisely.)
Nowan proverb

********************************************************


X-Sender: tekdiver@shadow.net
Date: Thu, 24 Jul 1997 15:06:17 -0400
To: PaleoAnthro@list.pitt.edu
From: "Paul E. Pettennude"
Subject: RE: PalAnt: hand as tool
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Sent by: "Paul E. Pettennude"

Group,

What about the brain? It controls the other tools.

Paul

12:28 PM 7/23/97 EST, you wrote:

>Sent by: BRAD COON 
>
>If we are going to count body parts as tools, lets not forget the
>foot.  There is a fascinating article in "Great Ape Societies" noting
>the use of selectively crushed vegetation to indicate food sources, 
>travel directions, etc. by bonobos.
>Ref: Language Perceived: Paniscus branches out, by Savage-Rumbaugh, 
>Williams, Furuichi, and Kano.  Great Ape Societies, ed. by McGrew
>, Marchant, and Nishida.  Cambridge Univ. Press.  1996

>******************************************************* >Brad Coon >COON@CVAX.IPFW.INDIANA.EDU >http://www.ipfw.indiana.edu/east1/coon/web/index.htm > >"Do'netyokit su do'sa'na'kit." (Live boldly but wisely.) > Nowan proverb >********************************************************


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