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Neanderthals did know how to start fires

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Neanderthal/Photaro

From Ryan Whitwam at Extreme Tech:

Scientists have known for years that our Neanderthal cousins made use of fire to cook and make tar from birch bark, but we didn’t know much about where they got the fire. Were they simply at the mercy of mother nature, collecting fire from lightning strikes, or could they start their own fires whenever they needed it? Archaeologist Andrew Sorensen and his colleagues now say Neanderthals knew how to make fire, and they came to that decision after making fire themselves.

Sorensen and his team at Leiden University suspected that flint tools often found at Neanderthal dig sites held the answer to early humanoid mastery of fire. Any place Neanderthals lived, archaeologists are likely to find a type of flint tool called a Biface. These hand axes were used for everything from chopping wood to skinning animals, and the researchers believed starting fires were also part of the feature set.

At any rate, a researcher could generate a shower of sparks using the flint tool, which is usually faster than waiting for lightning to strike.

What we can say is that Neanderthals would have had the necessary tools to start their own fires, and modern research suggests these hominids were as intelligent as modern humans. More.

Hmmm. Surely, by now, Neanderthal intelligence is well established. If there was a Missing Link, the Neanderthals aren’t that link.

Also: from Fiona McMillan at Cosmos, on the same find:

Any flint tools that had been discovered appear to have been used for other things, such as animal butchering.

Nevertheless, there were hints that Neanderthals had an interest in fire making. For example, there is evidence that late Neanderthals collected manganese dioxide (MnO2), a mineral that when crushed to a powder can lower the combustion temperature of woody tinder, making it easier to light.More.

Prometheus brings fire to mortals

Note: Curiously, the ancient Greeks considered the starting of fire so important that the demigod Prometheus was banished from among the pagan gods and chained to a rock, for teaching the skill to mortals. Clearly, it was considered a sort of watershed in human development.

See also: Researchers: Neanderthals used fire to forge tools 170 kya

Neanderthal Man: The long-lost relative turns up again, this time with documents

and

A deep and abiding need for Neanderthals to be stupid. Why?

5 Replies to “Neanderthals did know how to start fires

  1. 1
    vmahuna says:

    Lo! these many years ago there was a French movie whose English title was “Quest for Fire”. I was one of perhaps 10 humans on the planet who paid to see it at the theater. I don’t think it has EVER been broadcast on TV.

    The dialogue is neither French nor English but some weird guess by a Languageolgist about what a primitive human language MIGHT have sounded like. Fortunately, the primitives were kind enough to provide subtitles.

    The main tribe/pack does NOT know how to make fire, and so one of the guys is in charge of carrying a “lantern”, in which The Flame burns. He accidentally lets The Flame go out, realizes this is an Unforgivable Sin, and runs off alone to starve or freeze or be eaten by prehistoric sabre-toothed cave musk ox.

    Eventually, the man pack stumbles onto a much more advanced man pack (I think they have blonde hair, in keeping with the traditions of the classic SciFi flick “1 Million Years BC”). The other man pack can make fire whenever they wish. I think they used the “rub 2 sticks together” method.

    I think this was all cutting edge Anthropology back in the ’80s. But clearly there was a bunch of Technology (how did you drill a hole in that sea shell??) that was traded between man packs. Stretching a skin across a hoop to make a drum must have been a hot item. Fire was just one of a bunch of Technologies to be traded.

  2. 2
    ET says:

    I pity the arsonist who tries to use the Neanderthal defense now.

    “Your Honor, everyone can clearly see that my client is a Neanderthal. And everyone knows that Neanderthals don’t know how to start fires.

    Excuse me, what?

    Never mind.”

  3. 3
    bb says:

    I’m a Bible literalist, so believe that humanity radiated from the middle east, as stated in the Babel account in Genesis, as opposed to the “out of Africa” model. In that light, an intelligent people, living in a primitive manner after societal collapse, makes perfect sense. Some knowledge, like making fire, and some skill in chemistry, would survive in groups in limited fashion, though they may not have been equipped to build, so desperately lived in caves like marooned individuals trying to hack it out in the wilderness without the infrastructure they once relied on.

    Dates are always a problem for my view, but given how much the Bible gets right, I see it as a small one. I either misunderstand a subtlety in the timeline of scripture, or it is what is most clearly implied.

    If the latter, I tend to think science is missing some very important particulars with dating methods. We do, after all, find soft tissue in dinosaur fossils that are supposed to be 65+ million years old. There are other creationist date objections, like ocean salinity, the amount of dust on the moon vs. what was expected, how rapidly canyons can actually be carved, and the formation of sedimentary layers, that make sense to me. But I’m no geologist, and am not even a novice on radiometric methods. The materialist attacks on Christianity undermine my confidence in explanations offered. I associate what they call “progress” with decline, because it so obviously is in many more ways than is claimed to be good.

  4. 4
    Axel says:

    They also looked after their old and sick . The US and increasingly, the UK now, need to buck up, and take us all into a Neanderthal, or better still, a post Neanderthal age.

  5. 5
    Axel says:

    ‘I associate what they call “progress” with decline, because it so obviously is in many more ways than is claimed to be good.’

    That reminded me of an assertion of Einstein :

    ‘All of our exalted technological progress, civilization for that matter, is comparable to an axe in the hand of a pathological criminal.’

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