Neanderthal Pappy used fire

Glenn R. Morton (
Sat, 20 Jun 1998 22:06:15 -0500

In going through some old magazines, I found the following report of fire
use in Europe:

" What may be one of Europe's oldest hearths has been found at a
400,000-year-old Stone Age site in southeastern England by archaeologists
from Liverpool University. The find consisted of an area of red, baked
sediments, whose limited expanse suggests a controlled fire rather than a
natural one. The burnt sediments have been removed intact as part of a
one-cubic-meter block so laboratory tests can be undertaken to help
identify the nature of the burning.
. . .

The site, near Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk, was in a favorable spot near
a source of water. According to Gowlett, it seems to have been used over
centuries during a lull between the Ice Ages, when numerous large mammals,
including bear and deer, undoubtedly hunted by early humans, were found in
the area. Thousands of flint flakes have been discovered at the camp, the
by-products of stone tool manufacturing, and many have been matched to the
cores from which they were struck.

Human control of fire is well documented at sites dating from 150,000 to
200,000 years ago, and remains of hearths between 300,000 and 400,000 years
old have been found at a handful of sites in France, Hungary, and China. If
confirmed, this latest find will provide further evidence that early humans
had mastered the use of fire, in this case the ancestors of Neandertals in
northern Europe.--THERESA A. MCGILL "Ancient European Hearth,"
Archaeology November/December, 1997, p. 19

Now, the problem I see for those who would exclude Neanderthal from the
Human family is this. The use of fire represents a very human set of
The mental ability of those people was much more than most Christians want
to believe. The use of fire requires much planning. Barnouw writes:

"The fireplace would be the symbolic center of the group, a beacon by day
and by night for the men who had left camp to hunt. At the stage of Homo
erectus, there must have been some division of labor, with men specializing
as hunters and women as collectors and perhaps preparers of food. No doubt
the women looked after the children, fetched wood and water, and kept the
fire going. Such groups would be apt to split up during the day but have
some agreed-upon place to return to in the late afternoon or evening.
"Planning of this sort requires a language. Primitive though they may
have appeared, with their heavy brow ridges, low skulls, and large chinless
jaws, these men had relatively large brains, which were often within the
range of modern humans. It seems likely that their brains had become
sufficiently developed for language to be possible." ~ Victor Barnouw, An
Introduction to Anthropology: Physical Antrhopology and Archaeology, Vol.
1, (Homewood, Illinois: The Dorsey Press, 1982) p. 147

Gowlett remarks,

"If the use of fire goes back to the Lower Pleistocene (over 1 million
years), as seems likely, it can be argued that our ancestors had already
achieved a basically human character: but this view will be hotly debated
for some time to come." ~ John A. J. Gowlett, Ascent to Civilization, (New
York: McGraw-Hill, Inc. 1993), p. 57

The interesting thing about the Bury St. Edmund use of fire is that it was
made by archaic inhabitants of Europe. These archaics were the great,
great....great,grandpappys of Neanderthal. If Neanderthal's ancestor was
mentally capable of the use of fire, why in the world would we exclude
Neanderthal (who also used fire) from being human?

In other burning news, fire use has been documented at the sight of Kao Pah
Nam, in Thailand.

"Geoffrey Pope has been excavating deep in the northern Thailand forest,
in caves in a heavily eroded limestone landscape, caves once used by early
prehistoric inhabitants of the forest. One rockshelter at an outcrop named
Kao Pah Nam had yielded animal bones, stone tools, and the remains of a
crude, basalt boulder-ringed hearth. The basalt was imported to the site
by the people who once sat around the fire, for they knew that burning
limestone creates quicklime, a dangerous, caustic substance. The
inhabitants took large hippopotamus, and giant forms of ox, deer, bamboo
rat, and porcupine--all forest animals. The people also consumed
considerable numbers of freshwater oysters and piled up the empty shells
against the nearby cave wall. Kao Pah Nam is estimated to be about 700,000
years old, a date confirmed by radiometric and paleomagnetic studies at
other sites, where volcanic basalt flows can be dated with some accuracy."
~ Brian M. Fagan, The Journey From Eden, (London: Thames and Hudson, 1990),
p. 120


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