Humans made fire 790,000 years ago: study
Sun Oct 26, 2008 12:15pm EDT
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - A new study shows that humans had the ability to make
fire nearly 790,000 years ago, a skill that helped them migrate from Africa to
By analyzing flints at an archaeological site on the bank of the river Jordan,
researchers at Israel's Hebrew University discovered that early civilizations
had learned to light fires, a turning point that allowed them to venture into
A previous study of the site published in 2004 showed that man had been able to
control fire -- for example transferring it by means of burning branches -- in
that early time period. But researchers now say that ancient man could actually
start fire, rather than relying on natural phenomena such as lightning.
That independence helped promoted migration northward, they say.
The new study, published in a recent edition of Quaternary Science Reviews,
mapped 12 archaeological layers at Gesher Benot Yaaqov in northern Israel.
"The new data shows there was a continued, controlled use of fire through many
civilizations and that they were not dependent on natural fires," archaeologist
Nira Alperson-Afil said on Sunday.
While they did not find remnants of ancient matches or lighters, Alperson-Afil
said the patterns of burned flint found in the same place throughout 12
civilizations was evidence of fire-making ability, though the methods used were
And because the site is located in the Jordan valley -- a key route between
Africa and Europe -- it provides evidence of the human migration, she said.
"Once they mastered fire to protect themselves from predators and provide
warmth and light, they were secure enough to move into and populate unfamiliar
territory," Alperson-Afil said.
(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; editing by Alastair Macdonald)
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