300,000-year-old fire-pit found in Israel
Humans may have used fire as a social focus 300,000 years ago.
Full of ash and charred bones, the 6.5 feet wide hearth discovered in
the Qesem Cave, 11 miles east of Tel Aviv, could help archaeologists
learn more about the development of human culture.
The fire-pit found near Tel-Aviv could hold the secret to
the beginnings of social culture among early humans.
It also puts into question the popular theory that Homo sapiens arose
in Africa 200,000 year ago. Fragments of stone tools used for killing
and slicing animals found a few feet away from the pit, alongside layers
of ash, indicate the fire was used repeatedly over time as a sort of
base camp Ruth Shahack-Gross of the Weizmann Institute of Science in
Israel said the findings could point towards a time when humans first
began to regularly use fire both for cooking meat and as a focal point
for social gatherings.
"The findings also tell us something about the impressive levels of
social and cognitive development of humans living some 300,000 years
ago," Ms Shahack-Gross said.
The study argues that whoever built the pit must have had a certain
level of intelligence.
Experts have debated over which homini species -comprising of the
Homo genus - was first responsible for using fires in a controlled
Evidence found in Wonderwerk Cave in South Africa suggests that fire
was used in this way at least 1million year ago, while other
anthropologists argue that the teeth of a Homo erectus had adapted to
cooked food over 1.9 million years ago. Archaeologists discovered other
traces of fire at the Qesem Cave when it was uncovered over a decade ago
during the construction of a road to Tel Aviv.
Researchers thought remains including scattered deposits of ash,
clumps of soil that had been heated to high temperatures, and the
remains of large animals, had been left by pre-historic cave dwellers up
to 400,000 years ago.
A 2010 study into the traces caused controversy in the archaeology
world as it questioned the theory of Homo sapiens originating in Africa,
but the archaeologists were unable to draw a concrete conclusion from
- The Independent