9.2 C
Tuesday, May 30, 2023
HomeScienceAccording to research, humans in Europe have been making fires for at...

According to research, humans in Europe have been making fires for at least 250,000 years.


Credit: Unsplash / CC0 Public Domain

Researchers at Heriot-Watt University in Scotland have found that early humans in Europe were starting and controlling fire at least 50,000 years earlier than previously thought.

In a research paper published in the journal, Scientific reportsScientists have put together evidence that our ancestors in Europe were using fire for activities such as cooking, heating, and defense at least 250,000 years ago. Previous evidence had suggested that humans were running fires in Europe much later than that, around 200,000 years ago.

Using forensic chemical methods to identify particles of incomplete combustion, a research team at the Heriot-Watt School of Energy, Geosciences, Infrastructure and Society has detected a fire at Valdocarros II, an archaeological site near Madrid in Spain.

Dr. Clayton Magill, an associate professor at Heriot-Watt who specializes in using geochemistry to reconstruct ancient environmental conditions, led the project in collaboration with Spanish archaeologists Susana Rubio Jara and Joaquín Panera of Complutense University, Madrid. Geochemistry involves the study of the chemical composition of the Earth, its rocks, and minerals.

Dr Magill said: “We found overwhelming evidence of burning things and these remains are organized into a pattern, which suggests that humans were creating and controlling fire. Either they were using fire to cook or to defend themselves. The patterning in the fire tells us that they were encircling something.” such as a house or sleeping area, a living room or kitchen, or an animal pen.”

The chemical profiles of the charred remains also indicate that our human ancestors selected certain types of firewood for their combustion properties, such as heat and lack of smoke.

Dr Magill said the findings are “very exciting” and close a gap in our understanding of human-controlled fire and human development.

“This is important because our gender is defined by our use of fire,” said Dr. Magill. “Being able to cook food to feed our big brains is one of the things that has made us so successful evolutionarily. Fire also provides protection and enhances communication and family connection. And we now have indisputable evidence that humans started stopping fires in Europe 50,000 years earlier than we expected.” .

Dr. Magill added that chemical analysis is a more reliable way to confirm the fire than analysis of the remains in antique stoves, which can be eroded by weather conditions or the extraction process.

In the next phase of the project, the research team will study stone tools found near hearths to determine if they were used in certain ways about making and controlling fire – for example, to cut meat or crush plants.

said Dr. Magill, who is also an assistant professor of Geoenergy at Lyell’s Center for Earth and Marine Sciences, one of Heriot-Watt’s global research institutes.

Archaeologists Susana Rubio-Garra and Joaquin Panera gave Heriot-Watt’s team access to highly structured and rare specimens from the Valdocarros II site, working with Heriot-Watt’s former Ph.D. Student Lavinia M. Stancampiano collected specimens with forensic-level cleanliness and attention to detail.

Other researchers on the project are David Uribelarrea del Val and Alfredo Pérez González, also from the Complutense University of Madrid.

Globally, the oldest clear evidence of human-controlled fires is in East Africa around 1.5 million years ago, and in Israel around 790,000 years ago. In Europe, countries such as Hungary, France and Germany have been linked to earlier evidence of fire.

more information:
Clayton Magill et al, Geochemical organic evidence for human-controlled fires at the Acheulean site of Valdocarros II (Spain, 245 kya), Scientific reports (2023). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-023-32673-7

Provided by Heriot-Watt University

the quoteHumans have been starting fires for at least 250,000 years in Europe, Research Finds (2023, May 18), Retrieved May 18, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-05-humans-years-europe .html

This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without written permission. The content is provided for informational purposes only.

The author of what'snew2day.com is dedicated to keeping you up-to-date on the latest news and information.

Latest stories