Science & Tech

Scientists discover that humans mastered fire centuries before history suggests

Scientists discover that humans mastered fire centuries before history suggests
File:Fire.JPG - Wikimedia Commons

Humans in Europe may have mastered fire long before we previously thought.

According to a study published in Scientific Reports, humans made the discovery around 245,000 years ago, up to 50,000 years earlier than scientist thought previously.

Researchers studied samples from the Valdocarros II, a huge archaeological site found east of Madrid, Spain. Using chemical analysis, they found certain compounds that show things were burnt by fire in "organised" social events, rather than through accidents or wildfires.

"We have found definitive evidence of things being burnt and those remains are organised into a pattern, suggesting it's humans who are making and controlling the fire. Either they were using the fire to cook or to defend themselves.

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The spatial patterning in the fire tells us that they were encircling something, like a home or sleeping area, a living room or kitchen, or an enclosure for animals," Dr. Clayton Magill, study author and Assistant Professor at Heriot-Watt University in Scotland, said in a statement.

Dr Magill added that this new work helps to fill in the gaps in our understanding of human-controlled fire and human development.

"This is important because our species is defined by our use of fire," Dr Magill explained. "Being able to cook food to feed our big brains is one of the things that made us so successful in an evolutionary sense. Fire also brings protection and fosters communication and family connection. And we now have definitive, incontrovertible evidence that humans were starting and stopping fires in Europe about 50,000 years earlier than we suspected."

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