Fire as an engineering tool of early modern humans

Kyle S. Brown, Curtis Marean, Andy I R Herries, Zenobia Jacobs, Chantal Tribolo, David Braun, David L. Roberts, Michael C. Meyer, Jocelyn Bernatchez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

329 Scopus citations

Abstract

The controlled use of fire was a breakthrough adaptation in human evolution. It first provided heat and light and later allowed the physical properties of materials to be manipulated for the production of ceramics and metals. The analysis of tools at multiple sites shows that the source stone materials were systematically manipulated with fire to improve their flaking properties. Heat treatment predominates among silcrete tools at ∼72 thousand years ago (ka) and appears as early as 164 ka at Pinnacle Point, on the south coast of South Africa. Heat treatment demands a sophisticated knowledge of fire and an elevated cognitive ability and appears at roughly the same time as widespread evidence for symbolic behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)859-862
Number of pages4
JournalScience
Volume325
Issue number5942
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 26 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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    Brown, K. S., Marean, C., Herries, A. I. R., Jacobs, Z., Tribolo, C., Braun, D., Roberts, D. L., Meyer, M. C., & Bernatchez, J. (2009). Fire as an engineering tool of early modern humans. Science, 325(5942), 859-862. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1175028