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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Researcher: humans "mastered fire" 790,000 years ago

A researcher who excavated 12 layers of soil deposits from the shore of an ancient lake near the river Jordan found evidence that fire had been used by humans in every layer. The soil layers were laid down by waters from the lake in between occupancies by the different societies of humans that inhabited the site 790,000 years ago. Nira Alperson-Afil from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, concluded that humans would have had to have mastered the art of creating fire for it to have shown up in all 12 layers.

Previous research had shown that humans from this period could manipulate and use fire, but it was not clear whether they had the ability to create the fire themselves.

The researcher did not say if 790,000 years ago the users of fire had to obtain burning permits, get NEPA compliance, or write burn plans before they started their fires.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nira Alperson-Afil from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, concluded that humans would have had to have mastered the art of creating fire for it to have shown up in all 12 layers.

Any sane person who lives in a mediterranean eco-climate could have also concluded...... Fire is a natural part of the ecosystem.... with or without man. No reason to suggest that man either used or introduced fire into the landscape. Duhh..

Bill Gabbert said...

Perhaps I should have included more information. The researcher does not say that 790,000 years ago humans set the landscape on fire, only that they "created" fire. They started fire, probably in a campfire-like setting on the shore of a lake.

The researcher found flint chips, residue from tool-making, that had been charred by fire and tightly clustered in certain areas, as if they had fallen into an area that was used for a campfire. But they do not address, in the short article, the possibility of naturally-ignited fire burning across that site during each of the 12 periods identified in the excavation. The original paper may cover this.

HERE is a short article about the research.

ForestRanger said...

I suspect that finding charcoal in every layer could have as much to do with wildfires burning into settlements as it does with the population learning to use fire for cooking/protection. Failing to acknowledge that possibility is either shoddy research or reporting.

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