An international team led by the University of Toronto and Hebrew University has identified the earliest known evidence of the use of fire by human ancestors. Microscopic traces of wood ash, alongside animal bones and stone tools, were found in a layer dated to one million years ago at the Wonderwerk Cave --a massive cave in the Kuruman Hills of the Northern Cape Province of South Africa.
"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 Chazan.
Wonderwerk is a massive cave located near the edge of the Kalahari where earlier excavations by Peter Beaumont of the McGregor Museum in Kimberley, South Africa, had uncovered an extensive record of human occupation. Analysis of sediment by lead authors Francesco Berna and Paul Goldberg of Boston University revealed ashed plant remains and burned bone fragments, both which appear to have been burned locally rather than carried into the cave by wind or water. The researchers also found extensive evidence of surface discoloration that is typical of burning.
More information: “Microstratigraphic evidence of in situ fire in the Acheulean strata of Wonderwerk Cave, Northern Cape Province, South Africa,” by Francesco Berna et al. PNAS (2012).
The Daily Galaxy via University of Toronto
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