Archaeological News

            The latest news in archaeology.             

Posts tagged "fire"

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.

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 in 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 U of T anthropologist Michael Chazan, co-director of the project and director of U of T’s Archaeology Centre.

The research will be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on April 2.

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. A research project, co-directed by U of T’s Chazan and Liora Kolska Horwitz of Hebrew University, has been doing detailed analysis of the material from Beaumont’s excavation along with renewed field work on the Wonderwerk site. Read more.

A closed meeting with the army engineering section and the Arab Contractor Company a delegation with the Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA) led by Mohamed Shiha head of the Projects Department is to be held tomorrow to discuss all possible procedures to restore Egypt Scientific Institute (ESI). Report submitted by the MSA inspection mission would be also discussed in order to draw a restoration plan.

MSA’s minister Mohamed Ibrahim said that, according to official reports, the two-storey institute had been partially damaged by fire that had led to the collapse of its first- and second-floor ceilings, as well as the destruction of its wooden windows and arcades.

Mohsen Sayed head of the Islamic and Coptic Antiquities Department at the MSA told Ahram Online that all of the building’s internal walls had been destroyed but stressed that its supporting walls were still well preserved. Read more.