Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Wonderwerk Indeed

Our hominin ancestors used fire as much as 1 million years ago...

Microscopic examination of the floor of the Wonderwerk Cave in South Africa has disclosed evidence that our hominin ancestors - Homo Erectus - deliberately used fire as much as 1 million years ago.  By some measures this is as much as 300,000 years earlier than previously thought.

The intentional use of fire marks a very important steps in our evolution.  In addition to deterring predators and aggressors, cooking over a fire created more nutritious food.  Better nutrition may have made possible bigger and better brains which enabled - or responded to pressures for - new skills, new dexterity, new tools, and new social structures.  Cooperation and planning required speech and social skills.  The protection of accumulated food may have been rewarded by sexual exclusivity.  Time spent tending the fire may have provided opportunities to demonstrate the making of tools, story telling, the creation of music and art, and the invention of ritual dance, features found in every human society since.