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Neanderthals started making their own fire using stone tools

Penelitian - Homo sapiens is not the only hominid who knows how to light a fire. Leiden University scientists point out that as early as 50,000 years ago Homo neanderthalensis used this technology as well, providing new evidence that human extinct cousins have made fire by grabbing a small piece of pyrite and biface as their favorite mutlipurpose stone tool.

Andrew Sorensen and colleagues demonstrated in Scientific Reports where Neanderthals were able to develop and use fire, but controlling and producing is not the same thing. The method of attacking a small piece of pyrite on a biface is quite effective in generating sparks, although the results vary.

Penelitian Neanderthals started making their own fire using stone tools

"The ongoing debate over whether Neanderthals can make fire for themselves or if they depend on natural resources such as forest fires starts with a lightning strike from which they can collect fire later," Sorensen said.

Early humans created fire by hitting steel or pyrite against flints to create sparks. Splashes fall on the spots and cause smoldering. Then they will place a piece of burning material into a bundle of dry grass and gently blow into a big flame.

Sorensen and colleagues experimented with creating their own fire by grabbing a slice of pyrite against a biface replica. Then they compare the marks that have been made on biface with marks on 50,000 year old bifaces collected at several locations in France.

Bifaces are large stone tools, teardrop-shaped and function like army knives. Neanderthals carry around as they move from one place to another and use it to slaughter and skin the animals, also to grind the minerals into powder and create other tools.

The microscopic mineral trail is made by rubbing or rubbing stones against a modern biface to create a spark similar to that found on ancient bifaces. The researchers also experimented with using stone tools to perform other tasks including grinding ocher to make pigments and carve out other firebomb tools.



"Some produce only one spark, others produce rain for up to 10 sparks or more," Sorensen said.

The trail of minerals remaining in the ancient tools is closest to the traces generated when striking or by forcibly rubbing pyrite against the biface itself. Reconstructing a hominid lifestyle that lived 50,000 years ago is obviously difficult to do and does not provide definitive evidence that Neanderthals used fire.

"Traces made by pyrite are 'best suited', but there may be some other mineral material that we can not think of that can create similar traces," Sorensen said.

Journal : A. C. Sorensen et al. Neandertal fire-making technology inferred from microwear analysis, Scientific Reports, 19 July 2018, DOI:10.1038/s41598-018-28342-9

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