The Person in the Ape

A history of humans trying and failing to understand the minds of apes

‘Rôle de Joko’ by Charles Mazurier, c. 1826, via The New York Public Library, Jerome Robbins Dance Division

Around 500 BC, the Carthaginian explorer Hanno the Navigator guided a fleet of sixty oared ships through the Strait of Gibraltar and along the northwest lobe of the great elephant ear that is the African continent. Toward the end of his journey, on an island in a…