(ORDO NEWS) — About 170 thousand years ago, ancient people could already choose the best place for a hearth in their cave. Its location allowed the most efficient use of fire, while minimizing the harmful effects of smoke on the body.
Researchers from Tel Aviv University have developed a special simulation model of smoke dispersion in an enclosed space and applied it to the archaeological site of the Lazarette Cave in southeastern France, which was inhabited by people about 170-150 thousand years ago.
It turned out that the location of the hearth inside the cave allowed its inhabitants to use the fire as efficiently as possible without being heavily affected by smoke.
The use of fire by ancient people is actively discussed in the scientific community. Scientists are trying to understand at what stage of evolution people learned to control fire and produce it on their own. When did the use of fire become daily? How effective was it?
The question of the location of the hearth in the dwelling is especially important, since in many caves where people have lived for generations, archaeologists have found multi-layered hearths. That is, fires were kindled all the time in the same place.
Previously, Israeli scientists developed a model for air circulation and smoke dispersion in an enclosed space. Then they came to the conclusion that the safest place for a hearth is at the back of the cave, and the least healthy is at the entrance.
When the authors applied their model to a real place – the Lazareth cave – it turned out that placing the hearth against the back wall would indeed reduce the density of smoke in the living space to the lowest possible value, and most of it would rise to the ceiling.
However, in the studied layers, the hearth was located in the center of the cave. To understand why the ancient people chose this particular place, scientists modeled smoke dispersion for 16 variants of the location of the hearth inside the cave.
For each, they estimated the density of smoke in all parts of the cave. Based on the recommendations of the World Health Organization, the researchers divided the entire space into four zones according to the degree of danger of exposure to smoke.
It turned out that the density of smoke in the living area was actually minimal if the hearth was located against the back wall, as predicted by the model. However, in this case, the maximum safe area with the lowest smoke density would be located too far from the fire.
By placing the hearth in the center, the ancient people maintained a balance. It was possible to work, cook, eat, sleep, warm up near the fire, while being exposed to minimal smoke.
The discovery testifies to the ingenuity of ancient people, their ability to learn from experience and plan their actions, and possibly awareness of the dangers of smoke to health.
The simulation model presented in the work will also help archaeologists excavate new sites, as it will allow them to quickly find the hearth and determine the most visited places of dwellings.
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