Re: Zhoukoudian Fire

John P. McKiness (
Wed, 22 Jul 1998 21:33:55 -0500

At 07:51 PM 7/22/98 -0500, Glenn wrote:
>the average nightly low temperature in Beijing in December, January and
>February is 22, 17 and 22 deg. F respectively. The coldest it has been in
>the past 100 years is 1 deg F. But today is not the height of a glacial
>age. From 500,000 to 200,000 is the height of the Kansan/Mindel
>Glaciation. So presumably the temperature was colder then. Even with
>temperatures of today, with a 20 km/h wind, the feel of the temperature
>drops into the -20 deg C range. It would be difficult to survive a 3 month
>long winter like that without some sort of protection in the form of warmth.

Don't do this! Even during the Holocene we have evidence that temperate and
subartic climates were warmer at times then it is now (especially 6000-2000
RC yrs ago). Glacials have warm periods (called interstadials which can
last for thousands of years) which can be warmer then present. The 300,000
year span you mention contains more than one Pre-Illinoisian glacial but
their "peak" didn't last that long (for your information the Kansan
Glaciation is an outdated term now in its type area). Also just because we
have difficulty living with a chill in the air doesn't mean that people
don't adapt to it. If I remember right the indigenous people of Tierra Del
Fuego lived very primitively in a chilly environment. Also we have to take
into account that the people may have only been there during the summer and
migrated to warmer sites during the winter. Maybe those people even had a
better coat of hair then we do.

>To conclude, I think the press has overblown this report a bit. It doesn't
>prove that there was no fire at Beijing, it does indicate that they didn't
>use wood and the association of artifacts with burned bones in a proportion
>similar to known human cook-fire residues, surely must make one think long
>and hard before denying that there was any use of fire. If the authors
>could rule out dung as a fuel, then their case might become stronger. I do
>accept what they say that there is no wood ash at Zhou kou dian. But I am
>not so sure that the case against fire itself has been made yet.
>Adam, Apes and Anthropology
>Foundation, Fall and Flood
>& lots of creation/evolution information

I read the article also, and I thought it was good science. No it does not
totally disprove that humans controlled fire there 500,000 years ago, but it
does cast doubt on the previous certainty that many had in the reported

I think that you are to eager to grab research that supports your idea and
ready to disparage research and thought that doesn't. At present, like
Bernice Wuethrich wrote in the News article, same issue, all evidence
reported so far for human controlled fire before 300,000 years ago is
controversial now that doubt has been cast at Zhoukoudian also. Tough luck,
I guess; that's the way science works and also why we should not allow
ourselves to have a pet hypothesis. Remember the importance of "multiple
working hypotheses" in geological research, it applies in paleoanthropology