Early fires
May 1, 2004 3:06 PM   Subscribe

Remains of primordial flames
posted by magullo (4 comments total)
Wouldn't it be impossible for humans to be in Europe without mastery of fire, so as to not freeze in winter? In which case we can at least pin the date as far back as when the first humans arrived in Europe.
posted by stbalbach at 3:38 PM on May 1, 2004

Lots of other mammals lived in ice-age Europe without fire.
posted by jfuller at 5:06 PM on May 1, 2004

And we had animal skins, and caves, and each other for warmth. This is interesting, but i think we'll probably never know the actual beginning of our use of fire.

I've always wondered whether early groups of us had designated fire-keepers, who had to always keep it burning.
posted by amberglow at 7:56 AM on May 2, 2004

amberglow> we'll probably never know the actual beginning of our use of fire.

You could ask someone who has knew you as a kid: they might remember.

Nature and Scientific American also have versions of this story. It doesn't look like there is enough evidence yet uncovered to be sure whether these remnants were left behind by Homo ergaster, Homo erectus or "archaic" Homo sapiens.

Certain sources are beginning to doubt the theory that there was a neat evolution from Homo erectus to modern Homo sapiens. Instead, they propose an "archaic" Homo sapiens species, also known as Homo heidelbergensis, pointing to specimens with "morphological attributes of both modern humans and Homo erectus" from up to eight hundred thousand years ago. (Archaic) Homo sapiens and Homo erectus may have coexisted right up until around fifty-thousand years ago, when Homo erectus disappears from the fossil record.

As more evidence is collected the story becomes more and more interesting. It may even turn out to be the case that the ancestors of modern humans actually caused the extinction of the species that discovered the use of fire. Or it may not. Fossils decay over time, and prehistoric archaeologists literally have a lot of time on their hands. The story that these ancient artefacts have to tell may turn out to be a lot more complex than a neat division into species or a timeline of our ancestry.
posted by snarfodox at 9:18 AM on May 4, 2004

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