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First Humans to control fire

by Andre
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Andre
#1
Apr30-04, 05:52 AM
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Newest Science issue:

http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/conten.../304/5671/663a

Earliest Signs of Human-Controlled Fire Uncovered in Israel
Michael Balter

If you want to ignite a debate among archaeologists, just ask a simple question: When did humans first control fire? In recent decades, scientific journals have been ablaze with claims and counterclaims about this crucial step in human development. Now an Israeli team adds more fuel, reporting on page 725 new findings that push the earliest credible evidence back to 790,000 years ago--more than three times earlier than the previously accepted date. Surprisingly, however, this claim may be strong enough to damp down the debate rather than stoke it up.

Archaeologists caution that the possibility of natural fires can never be entirely excluded at such an ancient site, and a few would like to see a bit more evidence before they start celebrating. But this time the skepticism is noticeably subdued. "I think they have made by far the best case yet for humanly controlled fire before 250,000 years ago," says Richard Klein of Stanford University in California. Paola Villa of the University of Colorado, Boulder, agrees: The paper "provides very strong evidence of the use of fire by early humans," she says. If the claim is substantiated, it may help explain how early humans were able to push into the chillier climate of Europe after 800,000 years ago.....
Science, Vol 304, Issue 5671, 663-665 , 30 April 2004

BTW, the Hippo was common as north as the UK in certain times so it might not have been always that cold in Europe. What interests me is why -after controlling fire- it still took 784,000 years before building civilisations.
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hitssquad
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Apr30-04, 06:54 AM
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Quote Quote by Andre
What interests me is why -after controlling fire- it still took 784,000 years before building civilisations.
Philippe Rushton theorized that a combination of temporary environmental pressure encouraging higher IQ, and the subsequent easing of that environmental pressure, triggered the births of civilization in Europe and Asia and the semi-birth of civilization in North and South America.
selfAdjoint
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Apr30-04, 08:38 AM
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What species were the hominids associated with this? Sapiens or Erectus? Or, come to think of it, Neandertal?

marcus
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Apr30-04, 09:07 AM
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First Humans to control fire

Quote Quote by selfAdjoint
What species were the hominids associated with this? Sapiens or Erectus? Or, come to think of it, Neandertal?
Michael Balter, cited here as author of the recent article in Science,
wrote an earlier Science article in 1995

"Did Homo Erectus Tame Fire First?" Balter, Michael. Science. June 16, 1995.


http://fubini.swarthmore.edu/~ENVS2/...ordanfire2.htm

at that point he was pointing to evidence of controlled use of fire
going back 380,000 years

I dont have access (my subscription lapsed long ago) but it looks like
if you say things like "erectus fire" or "erectus fire balter" to google
you get a bunch of articles suggesing that H. erectus used fire
roughly on the order of 500,000 years ago

(however I cant get this very latest Science article so I dont know what it says, does anyone have a subscription?)
hitssquad
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Apr30-04, 09:09 AM
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Quote Quote by selfAdjoint
What species were the hominids associated with this? Sapiens or Erectus? Or, come to think of it, Neandertal?
This is from the end of the peer-reviewed article referred-to in the news article quoted above:

  • The producers of the Acheulian material culture have frequently been assumed to be Homo erectus or Homo ergaster (5, 28); at GBY they may just as well have been archaic Homo sapiens (29), such as an ancestor of Galilee Man (30). No evidence at GBY enables us to associate a particular hominin species (31) with the various activities on the shores of the paleo–Lake Hula.

    The in situ evidence emanating from the Acheulian horizons at GBY suggests that the hominin inhabitants hunted, processed meat, extracted marrow, quarried and transported different kinds of rock, produced stone tools, gathered plant foods (17, 32), and produced fire.
marcus
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Apr30-04, 09:51 AM
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hitsquad points us to an article by Goren-Inbar that I cant get on line
(its pay per view)

but there is a book by Goren-Inbar about the GBY (Jordan valley) archeological site in Israel and what they have found there
and this book is reviewed here:

http://antiquity.ac.uk/reviews/coles.html

the review repeats the business about finding bits of burnt wood that
are roughly around 700,000 years old
the wood was preserved because it was submerged in water, the review says
the book is all about these bits of old submerged wood

it is the first volume of a series:

"NAAM GOREN-INBAR, ELLA WERKER & CRAIG S. FEIBEL. 2002.
The Acheulian site of Gesher Benot Ya'aqov, Israel: the wood assemblage.

This is the first volume on the recent investigations at Gesher Benot Ya'aqov (GBY) in the Jordan Valley, Israel.

GBY is a waterside Acheulian site, significant for being waterlogged as well as beside the water, and this is a semi-arid environment. The archaeological significance of the site..."

it sounds pretty erectus to me but Goren-Inbar is not tipping his hand, the main thing is somebody was burning that wood, not what angle is forehead slanted at
selfAdjoint
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Apr30-04, 04:05 PM
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In the same broad region there were caves where remains "intermediate" between Neandertal and Sapiens were found - I can't recall the name of the site right now, but I wonder if this population would also be in the running for the fire starter prize? Or is my time frame completely off?
marcus
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Apr30-04, 04:45 PM
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Quote Quote by selfAdjoint
In the same broad region there were caves where remains "intermediate" between Neandertal and Sapiens were found -
I remember reading something about this too. A site in the general Jordan valley vicinity where Neanderthal and Sapiens were neighbors (i didnt register that there were intermediate types)

I cant remember the time frame of that report. I remember being amazed that there were Neanderthals in Israel living at the same time as regular people.
That area certainly has had a lot going on over the years. Some of the first cities etc.

Somehow I'm thinking that report was closer to 20,000
and if these burnt embers are from 700,000 that would make erectus more likely. But the basic message I get is dont discount other hominids, even if they arent sapiens they still may have contributed to progress
hitssquad
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Apr30-04, 04:51 PM
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Here is the PDF. Attached to this message are medium resolution JPGs of the three illustrations from the article.

Fig. 1. Three-dimensional illustration of the relative densities of flint microartifacts in Area C (5 m by 2 m per layer), GBY. (A) Layer V-5, unburned microartifacts; (B) layer V-5, burned microartifacts; (C) layer V-6, unburned microartifacts; (D) layer V-6, burned microartifacts. Relative densities have been standardized by the maximum values of each data set. Densities are represented as surfaces.

Fig. 2. Cross section of burned Olea europaea subsp. oleaster (wild olive) specimen. Wood is diffuse porous; vessels are solitary and in short radial multiples. Bar, 0.5 mm.

Fig. 3. Burned grain of Aegilops cf. geniculata: dorsal view of a basal fragment (this grain is also shown in fig. S2). Parts of husk and embryo are clearly seen. Bar, 1 mm.
Attached Thumbnails
GBYfig1.jpg   GBYfig2c.jpg   GBYfig3crop.jpg  
selfAdjoint
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Apr30-04, 09:09 PM
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I recalled the Neandertal site I was thinking of. It is Skhul cave. The time period appears to be 100,000 years B.P.


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