In their important book 'The Great Apes' (1929) the American primatologists Robert M. and Ada M. Yerkes had a great chapter on nestbuilding behavior of the Great Apes. They considered it as a transformation of the natural environment and termed the behaviour as 'constructivity'. Unfortunately this important concept was not continued in primatology. Evidently the widely known "pebble tool historism" was considered more profitable in the double sense of the term.
However, for the anthropologist who seriously questions his sources the switch to the use of pebble tools for nut cracking as a predisposition for anthropological consideration is an impardonable reductionism, the nest building behavior being a tremendously complex and much more important phenomenon with its physical, social and spatial implications.
Maybe the following paper could be taken as some sort of a platform to discuss the problem.
In contrast to the toolmaker-concept with its extremely limited activities of nut-cracking and ant fishing, the daily nest building is a routined and an extremely complex phenomenon, implying social, spatial categories, as well as constructive capacities which have to be learned by youngsters - mainly from their mother as teacher - during about 4 years.
In addition the nest as a prototype of more evolved constructive capacities and of human architecture is of great anthropological value.
I have tried to find out what this activity in fact produces quantitatively: in a life of 45 years a chimpanzee - building a nest every night - fabricates a virtual tower of 11 times the height of the Eiffel tower in Paris!
Primatologists do not see this tremendously important activity which is common to all Pongidae: Chimpanzees, Bonobos, Gorillas as well as Orang Utans! Evidently it must be a deep rooted tradition which started when Great Apes increased their body weight and had to pass the night in horizontal body posture, thus we can assume that the tradition was about 20 million years old!
Can we reconstruct the evolution of culture using 'constructive behavior' as a basic condition? I have been working about 30 years with this hypothesis and to me the concept of an "anthropology of habitat and architecture" has become a very convincing approach.
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