Tag: invention of fire

Scientist Smackdown: When Did Europeans First Harness Fire?

By Patrick Morgan | March 15, 2011 5:21 pm

What happens when evolutionary biology disagrees with archeology? If you’re thinking “scientific headache,” you’re right. New research suggests that Europeans first regularly used fire no earlier than 400,000 years ago—an assertion that, if true, leaves evolutionary anthropologists in a lurch because this date isn’t linked to the substantial physiological changes we’d expect with the advent of cooked food.

The Controversy

The majority of archeologists think that early humans’ control of fire is tied to their migration out of Africa. After all, how else would the first Europeans cope with the freezing winters?

Based on archeological evidence, we know that early humans first arrived in southern Europe over a million years ago, and—based on the Happisburgh site —reached England around 800,000 years ago. So the problem with the new 400,000 year-old date is that it means that hominids suffered through hundreds of thousands of years of cold winter unaided by fire. And according to evolutionary biologists, this new date clashes with the idea that cooked food aided the evolutionary enlargement of the human brain.

The 400,000-Year-Old Evidence

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Human Origins
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