A couple of short stacks of logs that appeared to be intersecting at a right angle caught the eye of a firefighter battling the Slide fire in Arizona. An archaeologist with the crew confirmed what the firefighter suspected:
The blaze had uncovered the ruins of a cabin at least a century old.
"The finding itself was very subtle," said Jeremy Haines, a U.S. Forest Service archaeologist. "It’s a collapsed, degraded cabin related to the earliest Euro-American settlement of this rugged, remote piece of Arizona."
Wildfires often destroy ruins and historic artifacts. With the help of archaeologists, firefighters can sometimes protect the sites, including Native American relics across the Southwest. Read more.
In a report co-authored by Michael Walker and colleagues of Spain’s Murcia University, scientists suggest that early humans who lived in the Cueva Negra (Black Cave) rock-shelter of southeastern Spain about 800,000 years ago used fire, and that they exhibited behaviors that indicated a cognitively sophisticated late early Pleistocene use of resources and tools in their environment. The detailed report is published in the upcoming Volume 15 of Popular Archaeology Magazine.
The rock-shelter, located in the face of a cliff overlooking the Quipar river and the small village of La Encarnación, became the subject of initial exploration by archaeologists in 1981. But full systematic excavations didn’t begin until 1990, when an archaeological team led by Walker and colleagues with the Murcia University Experimental Sciences Research Group undertook detailed investigation that continued for another 25 field seasons. Read more.
Zhoukoudian Locality 1 in northern China has been widely known for the discovery of the Middle Pleistocene human ancestor Homo erectus pekinensis ( known as Peking Man ) since the 1920s. By 1931, the suggestion that the Zhoukoudian hominins could use and control fire had become widely accepted. However, some analyses have cast doubt on this assertion as siliceous aggregate (an insoluble phase of burned ash) was not present in ash remains recovered from the site. New analyses of four ash samples retrieved from different positions of Zhoukoudian Locality 1 during the excavations carried out in 2009, present evidence for the controlled use of fire by Peking Man, according to an article published in the journal Chinese Science Bulletin.
"At present, the key point of the debate over the intentional use of fire by Homo erectus pekinensis at Zhoukoudian is whether or not siliceous aggregate (an insoluble phase of burned ash) is present in ash remains recovered from the site". Read more.
Humans, by most estimates, discovered fire over a million years ago. But when did they really begin to control fire and use it for their daily needs? That question – one which is central to the subject of the rise of human culture – is still hotly debated. A team of Israeli scientists recently discovered in the Qesem Cave, an archaeological site near present-day Rosh Ha’ayin, the earliest evidence – dating to around 300,000 years ago – of unequivocal repeated fire building over a continuous period. These findings not only help answer the question, they hint that those prehistoric humans already had a highly advanced social structure and intellectual capacity. Read more.
Excavations in the Midwest have turned up evidence of a massive ancient fire that likely marked “the beginning of the end” for what was once America’s largest city, archaeologists say.
The digs took place in southern Illinois, just meters away from the interstate highways that carve their way through and around modern-day St. Louis. But 900 years ago, this was the heart of Greater Cahokia, a civilization whose trade routes and religious influence stretched from the Great Lakes to the Deep South, and whose culture shaped the lifeways of the Plains and Southern Indians.
Here, researchers with the Illinois State Archaeological Survey have discovered a widespread layer of charcoal and burned artifacts among the foundations of ancient structures — Read more.
Early human ancestors needed high-level intelligence to use fire, new research suggests.
The study, published in February in the Cambridge Archaeological Journal, argues that fire use requires long-term planning, group cooperation and inhibition. In combination with evidence for early fire use, the study suggests that the early human ancestor Homo erectus may have been smarter than previously thought.
"Early humans would have had to have been fairly clever to keep a fire going by cooperating, not stealing food or not stealing fire from other people," said study author Terrence Twomey, an anthropologist at the University of Melbourne in Australia. Read more.
Richard Wrangham, an anthropologist at Harvard, claims that hominids became people—that is, acquired traits like big brains and dainty jaws—by mastering fire. He places this development at about 1.8 million years ago. This is an appealing premise no matter who you are. For those who see cooking as morally, culturally, and socially superior to not cooking, it is scientific validation of a worldview: proof that cooking is literally what makes us human. For the rest of us, it means we have a clever retort the next time one of those annoying raw-food faddists starts going on about how natural it is never to eat anything heated above 115 degrees Fahrenheit.
There’s one problem with Wrangham’s elegant hypothesis: It’s hardly the scientific consensus. In fact, since 2009, when Wrangham explained his theory in the book Catching Fire, several archaeologists have come forward with their own, wildly divergent opinions about what is arguably the oldest intellectual property debate in the world. Who really mastered fire, in the sense of being able to create it, control it, and cook with it regularly? Was it Homo erectus, Neanderthals, or modern humans? Read more.
Researchers from Israel say that mysterious clay and stone artefacts from Neolithic times could be the earliest known “matches”.
Although the cylindrical objects have been known about for some time, they had previously been interpreted as “cultic” phallic symbols.
The researchers’ new interpretation means these could be the earliest evidence of how fires were ignited.
The research was published in the open access journal Plos One.
The journal reports that the artefacts are almost 8,000 years old.
Although evidence of “pyrotechnology” in Eurasia is known from three quarters of a million years ago, this evidence usually takes the form of remnants of fire itself. Read more.