Humans and chimpanzees are very close genetic relatives, but just how close we truly are is still something of a mystery.
New footage of West African chimpanzees shows them throwing rocks against trees for no observable reason, prompting scientists to wonder whether they are performing a kind of religious ritual.
‘This represents the first record of repeated observations of individual chimpanzees exhibiting stone tool use for a purpose other than extractive foraging at what appear to be targeted trees,’ the researchers write.
‘The ritualised behavioural display and collection of artefacts at particular locations observed in chimpanzee accumulative stone throwing may have implications for the inferences that can be drawn from archaeological stone assemblages and the origins of ritual sites.’
Now we appreciate that many of you will be thinking: ‘This just looks like a bunch of chimps lobbing a few rocks around…’
However, it is interesting that one of the other researchers suggests that it could represent a direct connection with human religious rituals – noting that indigenous West African people also collect stones at sacred trees – in a way that is “eerily similar” to what is seen in the video below.