ponedjeljak, 21. ožujka 2011.

Neanderthals used fire as far back as 400,000 years ago

The extent to which Neanderthals used fire has been a heated debate for years, but a new study involving the University of Colorado suggests that Neanderthals had controlled use of fire dating back as far as 400,000 years ago.

"We do not know how they were making fire, but they were apparently quite capable of doing it at will," said Paola Villa, a curator at the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History, who co-authored a paper on the new evidence with professor Wil Roebroeks of Leiden University in the Netherlands.

Villa and Roebroeks' paper was published in the Monday issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Neanderthals lived in the western parts of Eurasia between 400,000 and 35,000 years ago, subsisting mainly by hunting medium- to large-sized mammals, including horses, deer, rhinos and elephants, depending on location.

"They were proficient hunters of large game," Roebroeks said in an e-mail. "The plant part of their diet does not fossilize that easily, but we do know that they also consumed -- and cooked, as shown by a recent study -- vegetable materials."

Archaeologists believe that an understanding of fire is one of the Neanderthals' greatest technological advancements, along with stone tool manufacturing.

"It shows that Neanderthals were a bit more sophisticated than many scholars assumed them to be," Roebroeks said.
Concentrations of charcoal, heated stone artifacts, burned bones and heated sediments indicate evidence of what researchers refer to as a "fireplace" in Neanderthal and other archaeological excavation sites. Those sites with at least two of these characteristics indicate the inhabitants' use of fire.

While evidence of fireplaces does not necessarily mean that Neanderthals were cooking their food, consideration of cooked plants in their dental remnants does. Villa believes that it's safe to then assume that they were also cooking meat.

Controversy arises, however, with consideration of Villa and Roebroeks' timeline. Researchers have long believed that the Neanderthals' predecessors migrated into Europe roughly 1.2 million years ago. This means, if Villa and Roebroeks are correct, that they did so without a habitual control of fire. Until now, it had been assumed that fire was necessary for early humans to withstand Europe's colder temperatures.

But Villa is confident in her and Roebroeks' analysis because sites dating back more than 400,000 years, before the time of Neanderthals, show no evidence of fire. It is only after the appearance of Neanderthals that evidence of fire in Europe significantly increases.
Villa refers to an excavation site where inhabitants used a low-grade coal they had collected from 8 kilometers away as evidence that these individuals knew what materials could be used for fuel.

"To me it's quite good proof that they knew how to make fire, even though we don't have direct evidence," she said.

Even more telling, researchers have found similar evidence of cooked plants in areas as distant from each other as Iraq and Belgium, indicating that fire technology spanned wide regions.
"This means that people were transmitting this knowledge to other groups," Villa said, acknowledging that the information likely took an extended period of time to travel.
"These people were not complex societies (with) roads or anything ... Clearly, communication moved with people."

Read more:CU researcher: Neanderthals used fire as far back as 400,000 years ago - Boulder Daily Camerahttp://www.dailycamera.com/ci_17636850?source=rss#ixzz1HE6J4Onr

0 komentari:

Objavi komentar

Copyright (c) 2010 History of our planet. Design by WPThemes Expert
Themes By Buy My Themes And Cheap Conveyancing.