Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Man: A Firebug For A Million Years

CSMonitor, (h/t Mark Thoma):
Ash and charred bone, the earliest known evidence of controlled use of fire, reveal that human ancestors may have used fire a million years ago, a discovery that researchers say will shed light on this major turning point in human evolution.
Scientists analyzed material from Wonderwerk Cave in South Africa, a massive cavern located near the edge of the Kalahari Desert. Previous excavations there had uncovered an extensive record of human occupation.
Microscopic analysis revealed clear evidence of burning, such as plant ash and charred bone fragments. These materials were apparently burned in the cave, as opposed to being carried in there by wind or water, and were found alongside stone tools in a layer dating back about 1 million years. Surface fracturing of ironstone, the kind expected from fires, was also seen.
Although modern humans are the only human species alive today, originating about 200,000 years ago, other human species once roamed the Earth, such as Homo erectus, which arose about 1.9 million years ago. [10 Things That Make Humans Special]
"The analysis pushes the timing for the human use of fire back by 300,000 years, suggesting that human ancestors as early as Homo erectus may have begun using fire as part of their way of life," said researcher Michael Chazan, a paleolithic archaeologist at the University of Toronto and director of the university's archaeology center.
This is one thing I have in common with previous human species (along with back hair).  We've got a couple of giant brush piles from removing a fence row, and I am so tempted to light them up.  Dad is trying to restrain me, which is a good idea, because they could easily get out of control and burn down the neighbor's house.  But gosh, it would be so cool to see those piles ablaze.

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