The exact time when humans began using fire in a controlled environment is a hot area of contention among researchers. Some claims have placed our first controlled uses of fire at 1.5 million years ago, however, other researchers claim that heated clays and charcoal fragments from that time were the work of bush fires that occurred naturally. Other researchers believe that older signs of fire use point to humans opportunistically taking advantage of fires created by mother nature.
A group of archeologists studying artifacts from an ancient cave, claim to have pinpointed the time when humans created and began to habitually use their own fires. The study, published in the journal Science on October. 19, was conducted by Ron Shimelmitz and his colleagues from the Zinman Institute of Archaeology of the University of Haifa in Israel. The group excavated flint tools and debris from Israel’s Tabun Cave.
Two years ago the team at UNESCO declared the cave to have “universal value” because of its documentation of human history dating back to half a million years. The site allowed researchers to precisely document how the use of fire by humans evolved over a lengthy period of time.
Researchers examined the caves sediment layers and found that most flints were not burned in layers that were older than 350,000 years old. The flints, characterized by cracking, red or black coloration began regularly showing up 350,000 years ago. The group found small round depressions where fragments called pot lids flaked off the stone, indicating exposure to fire.
The group notes that wildfires rarely occur inside of caves, and that the frequency of the fires point to regular human use of a controlled fire.
Humans may have been taking advantage of naturally occuring firse for many years before the Tabun Cave, however, Shimelmitz and colleagues claim that it took humans a long time to learn how to to start and control a flame. The study indicates that habitual use of fire in Israel’s Tabun Cave started just between 350,000-320,000 years ago.
“While hominins may have used fire occasionally, perhaps opportunistically, for some million years, we argue here that it only became a consistent element in behavioral adaptations during the second part of the Middle Pleistocene,” the researchers conclude.
This article was syndicated from Business 2 Community: Humans Started Using Fire Habitually 350,000 Years Ago, Researchers Claim
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