Habitual tools of archaeologists allow to determine the use of fire up to 200 thousand years ago. To do this, use the remains of ashes or a change in the color of tools and household items.
However, such traces and artifacts are relatively short-lived. Therefore, to look further into the past, scientists from the Weinzmann Institute in Rehovot used artificial intelligence algorithms.
– With the help of modern technology, it was previously possible to find several places where fire was used about 500 thousand years ago. However, in the 1970s in northern Israel, tools and animal skeletons were found in the Euron quarry in the Western Galilee, which could indicate cooking here in an older period.
– None of the finds had visual signs of heat treatment.
– In recent years, scientists using AI and spectroscopy expertise in archeology have trained artificial intelligence to analyze the chemical composition of materials down to molecular structures and determine whether they have been heated in the past.
– Using these developments, the researchers analyzed 26 flint tools. The results showed that they were heated to temperatures in excess of 600 degrees Celsius.
– In addition, 87 animal bones were examined. It turned out that even the tusk of an extinct elephant also underwent structural changes as a result of heating.
– The most interesting thing is that all these artifacts were subjected to heat treatment from 800 thousand to a million years ago. Thus, this is the oldest evidence known today of the use of controlled fire by humans for cooking and processing tools.
The controlled use of fire by ancient hominids is thought to date back at least 1.5 million years. It began around the time that Homo habilis began to evolve into Homo erectus. Homo sapiens did not yet exist as a species.
This study may be further evidence in favor of the so-called “culinary hypothesis”, which says that it was the development of controlled fire by our ancestors that played one of the most important roles in the evolution of homo sapiens – this factor helped to expand the diet and reduce the risks for ancient people.
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