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Prehistoric Humans Started Using Fire 300,000 Years Ago, Evidence Shows

Update Date: Jan 29, 2014 09:03 AM EST

Prehistoric humans had the ability to control and use fire, according to new findings. The discovery was made in the Qesem Cave, and is believed to be around 300,000 years old. 

A team of Israeli researchers identified thick deposits of wood ash in the center of the cave. With they help of infrared spectroscopy, they found that there were also bits of bone and soil that were heated to very high temperature. 

This served as conclusive proof of presence of a large hearth on the site.

Using a microscope, researchers tested the micromorphology of the ash to determine the composition of the materials in the deposit. According to researchers, the hearth was used repeatedly over time.

A large number of flint tools situated around the hearth area were also found. Scientists explain that these tools might have been used to cut meat. Other flint tools designed for other activities were also found a few feet from the hearth.

The identified hearth area also included large numbers of burned animal bones, which further strengthens the assumption that fire was used to cook meats. 

The latest findings also suggest that prehistoric humans divided the cave into different areas dedicated to several household activities, and that the cave might have served a base camp for its inhabitants to return to time after time. 

"These findings help us to fix an important turning point in the development of human culture - that in which humans first began to regularly use fire both for cooking meat and as a focal point - a sort of campfire - for social gatherings," Dr. Ruth Shahack-Gross of the Kimmel Center for Archeological Science at the Weizmann Institute said in a press release. "They also tell us something about the impressive levels of social and cognitive development of humans living some 300,000 years ago."

The findings are reported in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

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