Re: Zhoukoudian Fire

Glenn R. Morton (
Wed, 22 Jul 1998 22:14:30 -0500

At 09:33 PM 7/22/98 -0500, John P. McKiness wrote:
>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Glaciation is an outdated term now in its type area).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.

I know that Mindel, and Kansan glaciations are old terms but I before
writing it I looked on the Elsevier Geolgoical Time Table chart that sits
at my right hand by my computer. It is copyright 1987 so it isn't that
old. And yes you have interstadials in among all that. But there are still
cold spells even in the interstadials. And the Tiera del Fuegians had fire
(Andre Leroi Gourhan, The Hunters of Prehistory, transl. Claire Jacobson,
(New York: Atheneum, 1989), p. 94-95) So, yes they lived in a chilly
environment but they didn't live there without fire.

And I might point out that only one primate that I am aware of lives in a
cold environment. These are the primates that live in volcanically heated
pools in Japan. Without those heated pools to keep them warm in the winter,
they would die out. The point of this is that primates with good fur coats
don't inhabit northern climates because they freeze to death! And we are

>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.

Wait a minute. I agreed with these guys that their work probably did rule
out wood fires. I did note that there are some escapes to the widely
circulated press accounts stating that there was no fire at Zhou kou dian,
which even the authors wouldn't agree with. So give me a breeak, I have
not denied the value of their science.

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

Are you providing an example here of grabbing at articles that support your
position? You seem to be saying that because there is no wood fires, there
was no fire at Zhou kou dian! That is poor logic and even the authors
state that there are burnt bones in the same percentage as are found after
modern humans use fire. How do you account for this? Or do you not need
to because you can
use the parts of the article that support your position and ignore those
that don't?

Of course all evidence of fire use is controversial. Nearly everything in
anthropology is controversial. Why should the use of fire be different? An
interesting perspective is given by Gowlett:

"Why then is there hostility to the idea of early fire among some
archaeologists? One view is that fire use represents a considerable mental
advance over stone tool manufacture, and that it must therefore be expected
at a later stage. Holders of htis opinion are unwilling to postulate the
use of fire at any time earlier than is actually proven. But it seems
likely that early humans beings who were skilled in stone tool manufacture
and use would have a similar familiarity with wood (although it is never
preserved.)." ~ John A. J. Gowlett, Ascent to Civilization, (New York:
McGraw-Hill, Inc. 1993), p. 57

Adam, Apes and Anthropology
Foundation, Fall and Flood
& lots of creation/evolution information