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Chimp Spear To Be In Smithsonian Exhibit

December 22, 2009

A spear-shaped hunting tool used by savanna chimpanzees in Senegal and provided by Iowa State University Associate Professor of Anthropology Jill Pruetz will be displayed in a new exhibition hall opening next year at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of History. The exhibit is dedicated to the discovery and understanding of human origins.

The spear will be displayed in a case that highlights two other original tools made by chimpanzees: a stone anvil and hammerstone with oil palm nuts, and an ant-dipping tool (stick).

“As a researcher, that’s pretty exciting to have an artifact from your research included in a Smithsonian exhibit,” Pruetz said. “We’re going to have to plan a trip to the Smithsonian next year to see it.”

Pruetz’s discovery that the chimps at her Fongoli site are the first non-humans to routinely use primitive spear-shaped tools to hunt other vertebrates — smaller primates called bush babies — rocked the science world nearly three years ago. Her research will be featured in an upcoming National Geographic Television documentary.

The $20.7 million David H. Koch (pronounced “coke”) Hall of Human Origins will open March 17, 2010 at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. It will be complemented by ongoing human origins research and education programs. The exhibition and related programming is designed to advance the work of leading scientists and research institutions around the world by making their research more readily available. The Smithsonian Human Origins Program is directed by Dr. Rick Potts. Education and public outreach for the program is under the leadership of Dr. Briana Pobiner.

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, located at 10th Street and Constitution Avenue N.W. in Washington, D.C., welcomed more than 7 million visitors in 2008, making it the most visited museum in the United States. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Admission is free.

Image Caption: This spear-shaped tool used by chimpanzees studied by ISU anthropologist Jill Pruetz will appear in a new exhibition hall opening next year at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of History. Photo by Chip Clark, Smithsonian Institution

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