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Neanderthals Knew How to Start a Fire

Neanderthals Knew How to Start a Fire



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The ability to create fire is one of the biggest developments in our history as a species. Now, archaeologists have recovered artifacts suggesting that our ancient cousins, the Neanderthals, knew how to do it, too.

Neanderthals living in France roughly 50,000 years ago regularly started fires by striking flint with hard minerals like pyrite to generate a spark, according to a paper published in the scientific journal Nature. Andrew Sorensen and his colleagues at Leiden University in the Netherlands and the National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research in France analyzed dozens of flint tools from multiple sites to conclude that Neanderthals managed to devise their own version of the modern match.

Previously, researchers knew that Neanderthals, or Homo neanderthalensis, used fire, but debated whether Neanderthals knew how to create it or simply learned to control fires that started naturally, as from a lightning strike.

The distinction between starting or controlling a fire is a pretty big deal, and there’s even an extremely ‘80s movie called A Quest for Fire that dramatizes why. The film opens with a group of Neanderthals who keep a naturally-occurring flame burning so they can use it as a resource. When the fire goes out one day, they’re devastated because they have no idea how to restart it (thus begins the Quest for Fire… ).

Keeping a naturally-occurring fire burning indefinitely “requires a lot of extra energy and time,” says Sorensen, a co-author of the paper who is completing his Ph.D. at Leiden University. “But if you’re able to make fire at will, then if fuel shortages are a problem, you can be more judicious with your fire use,” he continues. “So you can make a fire as needed for a specific task…and then just let it die out because you don’t have to worry about not having fire the next time you need it.”

This, he says, is “one of the major important implications of having the ability to make fire.”

Though it’s not clear how these Neanderthals used fire once they made it, Sorensen says that the ability to create fire could have allowed some Neanderthals to move into colder climates.

“You have some late Neanderthal sites in central Eurasia that are above the Arctic Circle, so very cold,” he says. “And you would hope that these people would’ve been able to have fire, the ability to make fire as needed, to help cope with those colder conditions.”

The flint tools Sorensen studied date to the late Middle Paleolithic, but Neanderthals had already been using fire—and possibly creating it—for much longer.

A research paper published in the scientific journal PNAS in February 2018 described charred digging sticks in Italy that Neanderthals likely crafted around 171,000 years ago. This is the earliest evidence of Neanderthals using fire to create tools. What’s unknown is whether they discovered this fire or started it themselves.

It’s unclear how long ago modern humans, or Homo sapiens, began creating fire on their own.

Homo erectus, the “Upright man” who preceded Neanderthals and Homo sapiens, interacted with fire as early as one million years ago in South Africa, according to a PNAS paper from May 2012. Early Homo sapiens may have used wood to create fire in Africa, the continent on which they originated, before moving north into Neanderthal territory. However, this has been difficult to prove simply because it’s rare to find wooden artifacts that are well-preserved.

In any case, the increasing evidence of interbreeding between Neanderthals and humans suggests that their history is tied to our own.

“Without fire…without the combustion process, we wouldn’t have the electricity; we wouldn’t have all the nice things that we’re used to,” Sorensen says. It’s important, he thinks, to understand “how we got from these early stages of fire use to where we are today.”


Study Suggests Neanderthals Sparked Their Own Fire

Every year, we find more evidence that our hominin cousins the Neanderthals shared commonalities with us they made jewelry, appreciated beauty, buried their dead and possessed language. In fact, they are, at least partially, us—Neanderthal DNA makes up roughly 2 percent of the genome of people with European and Asian heritage. Now, Sarah Zhang at The Atlantic reports, a new study suggests they even possessed a technology that we believed only our species had mastered—making fire on demand.

Archaeologists have previously come across Neanderthal fire pits, and their ability to make fire-dependent substances like tar indicates that fire was an important part of their lifestyle. However, researchers surmised that the Neanderthals had to rely on natural events like lightning strikes and forest fires to give them Prometheus' gift, which they then had to painstakingly tend to preserve.

But Andrew Sorensen of Leiden University wasn’t so sure about that conclusion. Ancient humans could make fire on demand by smashing the naturally occurring mineral pyrite against flint, making a small shower of sparks that could be nursed into a larger fire. According to a press release, he wondered if Neanderthals might have possessed that simple technology as well. To investigate, he first collected chunks of flint off beaches in England. When struck right, flint rocks will flake, creating sharp hand-axes known as bifaces, which Neanderthals and early humans used for lots of daily tasks. Sorensen created his own bifaces in the lab, and then used them and pieces of pyrite to produce fire. Then he examined the microscopic marks left on the bifaces by the pyrite, which leave a very distinctive type of mark.

Sorensen and his team compared those with bifaces found at archaeological digs, searching for telltale signs that the flint had been used to start fires. “A hand-axe was the Neanderthal Swiss Army Knife,” he says in the release. “They used them for everything. But only making fire with pyrite would have produced this exact suite of use-wear traces.”

The team found that 26 surfaces on 20 bifaces recovered from Neanderthal sites in France showed these distinctive marks, indicating that they had won the quest for fire. The research appears in the journal Scientific Reports.

The finding is, to say the least, controversial. Dennis Sandgathe, expert in stone technology at Simon Fraser University, not involved in the study, tells Ben Guarino at the Washington Post that the technique of comparing experimental “wear patterns” to artifacts is not an exact science. Sorensen agrees, but he thinks the idea that Neanderthals sparked up their own fires makes more sense than the wildfire theory. He acknowledges, however, that it’s possible the scratches were created by some other task we don’t know about. “We always explain that it's an interpretation,” he says.

There are other reasons to exercise a healthy sense of skepticism toward the claim. In a separate interview with Zhang of the Atlantic, Sandgathe says that he has previously looked at caves occupied 40,000 to 100,000 years ago, where his team found that fire pits were common during warm periods—when lightning would be more likely—not in cold periods. Also, he’s never found a biface and pyrite together in the same layer. Then again, he says the archaeological record, when it comes to what was going on 50,000 years ago, is woefully incomplete.

Guarino reports that Sorensen hopes to follow up on the study to see if the earliest humans used the same or similar technologies to make fire. It’s even possible we learned the technique itself from Neanderthals, he speculates. Which would mean Neanderthals gave us more than just a little DNA. They also gave us the eternal gift of barbecue.

About Jason Daley

Jason Daley is a Madison, Wisconsin-based writer specializing in natural history, science, travel, and the environment. His work has appeared in Discover, Popular Science, Outside, Men’s Journal, and other magazines.


Neanderthals Created Their Own Fire 50,000 Years Ago

Archaeologists know that, tens of thousands of years ago, Neanderthals had access to one of the most important tools in human history&mdashfire. But an academic debate has raged concerning the source of our ancient cousin's flames. Did they make use of naturally-occurring wildfires? Or were they sophisticated enough to start their own?

Now, a study has revealed the archaic humans used stone tools to create their own fires just like their modern human counterparts, scientists reported in the journal Scientific Reports. Archaeologists analysed 50,000 year old Neanderthal tools for evidence the primitive humans used them to create sparks.

The importance of fire to both our ancestors and our lives today is impossible to understate. From cooking our food to heating our homes, fire's role in our history runs deep. Some anthropologists even think it helped us develop our big, bright, energy-hungry brains.

But without lighters or matches, creating a fire from scratch can be tricky. Throughout history, modern humans have used the "strike-a-light" method to start fires on demand. If you smash a pice of flint against a mineral called pyrite, you can create sparks. With a little bit of well-placed kindling and a well-directed gust of human breath, those sparks can become a fire.

Although there is plenty of evidence Neanderthals could collect fire and maintain it, evidence that our human cousins had the skills to "strike a light" has been lacking.

One of the biggest problems for archaeologists investigating Neanderthals is the disposable nature of many of their tools. These primitive humans would make simple, task-specific devices and throw them away once they were done butchering animals or whittling wood. "This makes it much more difficult for archaeologists to recognize and to identify these tools," study author and Leiden University researcher Andrew Sorenson explained.

Luckily, the research team had access to a collection of hardier tools originally found in France. "These

50,000 year old 'Mousterian of Acheulean Tradition' bifaces&mdashoften called hand axes&mdashwere effectively the Neanderthal Swiss Army Knife, used for numerous different tasks and for much longer periods of time," Sorenson said.

If Neanderthals used the hand-axes for pretty much everything, he thought, they might well use them to start fires.

Sure enough, Sorenson and team found mineral traces on the flat sides of the tools. These percussion marks, he said, looked like the ones that appeared on experimental versions of biface tools when they were used to make fire.

"It looks like the Neanderthals would hold the biface in one hand and then strike a piece of pyrite across [its] flat surface&hellip to create sparks that would have been directed onto a dry tinder material, which would then start glowing and used to start a fire," Sorenson said. "The beauty of this method is that by using the flat sides of the biface, the Neanderthals were able to keep the edges of their tools sharp for other tasks."

Read more: Ancient human footprints are oldest ever found in North America

The implications of the research go far byond the flames thenselves. "Having this ability also carries with it cognitive implications," Sorenson said. It shows Neanderthals had a great knowledge of the landscape, as well as that they had the foresight to gather fire-making items for future use, and understand their material, he explained. "They could take two different, inert items&mdashflint and pyrite&mdashand smash them together to produce a completely new material, fire, totally unlike the parent materials.

"I don't know if this fundamentally changes our understanding of Neanderthals, but it does provide yet another instance demonstrating that Neanderthals were no dummies and just as capable as modern humans in using advanced technologies to get by and thrive, even though they sometimes went about it differently," Sorenson added.

Read more: Early humans liked jerky too, ancient jaws suggest

The research supports a view of Neanderthals that were "highly capable in many ways," John Gowlett, a professor at the U.K.'s University of Liverpool who was not involved in the study, told Newsweek.

"Some authors have recently doubted whether Neanderthals always had use of fire, but burnt materials are common on their sites, and pieces of pitch from Augsburg in Germany show that they had the skill to control fire at high temperatures for several hours. Evidence that they could make fire at will may seem surprising, but it fits this picture very well."

Perhaps most exciting of all, Sorenson thinks there probably are more clues to Neanderthal's mysterious lifestyles waiting to be found in the drawers and cabinets of ancient tool collections. "More eyes looking ideally means more eyes finding," he said.


Researchers Claim Neanderthals Could Start Fires Using Stone Tools

Scientists have known for years that our Neanderthal cousins made use of fire to cook and make tar from birch bark, but we didn’t know much about where they got the fire. Were they simply at the mercy of mother nature, collecting fire from lightning strikes, or could they start their own fires whenever they needed it? Archaeologist Andrew Sorensen and his colleagues now say Neanderthals knew how to make fire, and they came to that decision after making fire themselves.

Sorensen and his team at Leiden University suspected that flint tools often found at Neanderthal dig sites held the answer to early humanoid mastery of fire. Any place Neanderthals lived, archaeologists are likely to find a type of flint tool called a Biface. These hand axes were used for everything from chopping wood to skinning animals, and the researchers believed starting fires were also part of the feature set.

In order to know if this was even feasible, Sorensen started by making his own Bifaces. It’s a simple tool — the simplest, actually. You take a piece of flint and break it in just the right way to expose sharp edges. With his modern reproduction Bifaces in hand, Sorensen retreated to his lab to start testing. When striking a flint Biface with pyrite, you get a small shower of sparks. Sorensen confirmed that you could ignite tinder with this method, so Neanderthals had the tools to make fire. But did they?

Some of the microwear patterns that may have come from striking pyrite against flint tools.

According to a newly published paper, Neanderthals likely used the same method Sorensen used to start fires. Upon examination of his modern Bifaces, Sorensen noted that the pyrite left small marks on the rock. So, they set to examining real Neanderthal tools for similar patterns of “microwear.” It’s not easy to find such subtle markings on stone tools from 50,000 years ago, but the team identified when they believe to be the correct wear patterns.

The discovery of microwear patterns on stone tools isn’t a slam dunk, though. It’s possible these marks could have come from something else, and there are no sites where flint Bifaces were found with pyrite strikers in the same archaeological layer. What we can say is that Neanderthals would have had the necessary tools to start their own fires, and modern research suggests these hominids were as intelligent as modern humans.


Neanderthals may have been the first to boil their food

A palaeontologist has claimed at a recent meeting of the Society for American Archaeology in Texas that Neanderthals cooked stews using skin bags or birch bark trays, according to a National Geographic report . It was once believed that boiling water to soften food or remove fat from bones may have been one of the advantages that allowed Homo sapiens to thrive, but Palaeontologists John Speth questions this perspective.

According to Speth, the evidence for Neanderthals’ cooking abilities comes from archaeological remains of ancient bones, spears, and porridge. Speth said that animal bones found in Neanderthal settings are 98 percent free of scavenger's gnawing marks, which he says suggests the fat had been cooked off. Furthermore, grains found in the teeth of a Neanderthal buried in Iraq's Shanidar Cave site appear to have been cooked, according to a 2011 Proceedings of the National Academies of Science report. "It is speculative, but I think it is pretty likely that they knew how to boil," Speth says.

Speth’s theory is that Neanderthals boiled foods in birch bark twisted into trays, a technology that prehistoric people used to boil maple syrup from tree sap. Water will boil at a temperature below the ignition point of almost any container, even flammable bark or hides.

Sheets of birch bark, which Neanderthals may have used for cooking. Photo source .

Some experts are not yet convinced of Speth’s theory. Palaeontologist Mary Stiner of the University of Arizona in Tuscon acknowledges that Neanderthals were handy with wood and fire, but does not believe there is enough evidence to conclude that Neanderthals were cooking: "Whether they went as far as boiling stuff in birch bark containers or in hides is harder to evaluate," Stiner said.

Archaeologists have demonstrated that Neanderthals relied on birch tar as an adhesive for creating spear points as many as 200,000 years ago. Making birch tar requires clever cooking in an oxygen-free container, says palaeontologist Michael Bisson of Canada's McGill University. Bisson explains that Neanderthals probably rolled-up birch bark "cigars" and put them into holes to cook the sticky substance in an oxygen-free environment.

While further research is needed to determine if Speth’s hypothesis is correct, numerous studies have emerged in recent years that have shown that the skills and abilities of Neanderthals were not inferior to those of Homo sapiens.

Featured image: An artist’s depiction of Neanderthals cooking and eating. Credit: Mauricio Anton / SPL


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Humans Breeding With Neanderthals

Modern humans mated with Neanderthals as far back as 100,000 years ago. This interbreeding occurred when modern humans encountered Neanderthals as they started moving out of Africa.

After early modern humans emerged in Africa about 200,000 years ago, some eventually left the continent and mixed with Neanderthals in the Middle East or the Arabian Peninsula, where fossils and stone tools of both groups date back to about 120,000 to 125,000 years. This group of modern humans went extinct, but their DNA persisted in the Neanderthals that headed east to eventually settle in Siberia. Meanwhile, another group of modern humans left Africa much later and interbred 50,000 to 60,000 years ago with Neanderthals that had headed south from Europe to the Middle East. In this later migration, Neanderthals interbred with the ancestors of living Europeans and Asians, who then spread throughout Eurasia. Some of this group of modern humans also encountered Denisovans, picking up the DNA that persists today in Melanesians and some Asians.

The researchers are still not sure how exactly the encounters happened whether they had peaceful meetings or raids in which one group stole the females of another group. Chris Stringer, a professor and research leader in human origins at the Natural History Museum in London, told the BBC:

“Eventually, geneticists should be able to show if the transfer of DNA in either direction was mainly via males, females, or about equal in proportion, but it will need a lot more data before that becomes possible.”

Another interesting find regarding interbreeding of humans and Neanderthals was that it caused the Neanderthal “extinction”. A team of scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany analyzed the DNA of Neanderthals, early humans, and modern humans. They discovered that the Neanderthals’ genes dissipated over time as interbreeding increased until eventually they were wiped out.

Svante Paabo, professor of evolutionary genetics at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, told The Times:

“It means they were incorporated, which is why we see so many of their genes living on in modern Europeans. If we look at a few thousand genomes we can pick out 15,000 Neanderthal genes — so at least half their genome is walking around in people today,”


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Neanderthals Knew How to Start a Fire - HISTORY

Was Adam a Caveman?
by Dr. David Livingston

Modern anthropology teaches that "man" has been developing for a very long time -- as much as five million years. On the other hand, the Bible indicates that man has only been around for a few thousand years. Can the two positions be reconciled, or must one be rejected with only the other being acceptable? Which position does the scientific evidence really support? How did modern anthropologists arrive at their conclusions?

Let us examine the origins of modern evolutionary thinking that is behind the theoretical statements about "early man" being hundreds of thousands of years old and some of the finds used to support this belief system we will contrast them with the Biblical version of the origins of man.

Man's Life Directly from God

A display in the Field Museum in Chicago showing early concepts of
Neanderthal Man. Although still in use, it is hopelessly out of date.
What does the Bible actually say about the origin of man? Genesis 2:7 says, "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul." Notice first in this verse that man was not created out of some lower form of life (ape, chimpanzee, or hominid) as some theistic evolutionists claim. He was made, or fashioned, by the very hand of God out of 'aphar - inanimate dust, dirt, or clay. The Hebrew word for "formed" is the word used when a potter shapes his vessels. As a pottery vessel is lifeless, so man's body was originally lifeless. Life in man's body came directly from God's spirit, or "breath." When God gave life to man, he became a "living soul."

To further emphasize that man was not related to lower forms of life, this "living soul" is the same kind of life animals have (Genesis 1:30, 7:22). That is, although man is infinitely above animals, his "animal life" came directly from God, not from some other animal. Thus, the Bible portrays an anti-evolutionary beginning for man. There is no way to reconcile the philosophy of human evolution with the Biblical narrative of the creation of man by God.

The "Development" of Man

Another area of major conflict between the Bible and evolutionary philosophy is in the development of man. Evolutionary anthropology postulates a scenario of early man as brutish with low intelligence. The theory is that over many tens or hundreds of thousands of years "man" evolved enough intelligence to move into caves, accidentally learned to make and use fire, and after tens of thousands of years as a hunter-gatherer, he eventually domesticated grain and animals. Of course, the accouterments of civilization did not appear until relatively recent times -- within the last five thousand years.

The Biblical scenario is much different, with man highly intelligent from the beginning (Genesis 4:1-4). When Cain and Abel, the sons of Adam and Eve, came with their sacrifices, Cain was a "tiller of the ground." The text does not say that Cain brought in wild wheat or wild barley. It says he brought that which he had raised by farming, his produce of the ground = "domesticated" crops. Thus domesticated grain or vegetables are available at the beginning of man's existence. (The Hebrew is not clear as to what he actually brought.)

Next, the text does not say that Abel brought wild sheep it says he was a "keeper of sheep." He offered from the flocks of his field = "domesticated" animals -- in the very beginning.

Domestication implies a long process of change from a wild to a tame state. But the Bible seems to imply that God created some things wild and some things for man's use -- already "domesticated," and intelligent man used them immediately. Even if God did create them "wild," Adam and his descendants"domesticated" them very early, not over a long period of time.

In the Biblical account, man knew how to talk from the very beginning, knew how to use fire, knew how to do all kinds of things that we are given the impression took hundreds of thousands of years of evolutionary development.

Not long after the events related in Genesis 4:1-16, Cain's close descendants exhibited all the elements of "civilization." Lamech's son, Jabal, was the "father" of those that live in tents and have livestock. This indicates knowledge of the cultivation of fibrous plants and weaving, and, of course, the continuation of raising domesticated animals. Jabal's brother, Jubal, was known as the developer of both stringed and wind musical instruments which would, of necessity, include the knowledge of music composition, and probably included other fine arts as well. A stepbrother, Tubal-cain, forged implements of bronze and iron. Bronze is not copper only it is an alloy of both copper and tin. This indicates an early knowledge of smelting and metal combinations. And, with the knowledge of smelting, iron was already in use. So we see that according to the Bible, arts and industry had already developed during the very lifetime of the first man and woman -- Adam and Eve were still living at this time, as well as Cain.

Can Discoveries of Early Man Be Reconciled with the Biblical Account?

How can one reconcile scientific theories with the third and fourth chapters of Genesis, and even the second chapter of Genesis, where we have the activities of Adam and Eve and their children? These first people appear to be highly intelligent. They knew how to make fire from the very beginning -- they offered sacrifices. Furthermore, on the face of it, it seems that it was not very long ago. Can that be reconciled with modern archaeological discoveries?

In what follows, we will examine the evidence presented for prehistoric man in museums in the U.S., and in the British Museum of Science. One should examine museum evidence for himself, being careful to read everything in the display captions.

We will consider two models: one is the evolutionary model, the other is the creation model. If there is a third model, it might be that man came to earth from some other terrestrial body. But that possibility reverts to one or the other of the first two models. Either God made more beings or man evolved from some lower form of life. If evolution can be falsified and it can be shown that the evolutionary story for man's origin lacks evidence to support it, then one of the two models will have been displaced, leaving only one. It is not necessary to prove creation. Nor is it likely that we will find evidence for creation anywhere but in the Bible (except for several ancient near eastern creation myths) it happened such a long time ago. There can be no question that accepting the creation model is a matter of faith. On the other hand, evolution is a statement of faith also because, as will be seen, there is little, if any, evidence for it.

Stone-Age Is Not Necessarily Early

Was the Stone-Age a period of time long ago? Not necessarily, there are people living in the Stone-Age today in many places. They know how to make stone tools and weapons. Because people used stone implements does not mean they lived a very long time ago. Time magazine pictured people in Surinam who live in the stone-age. They are called "Stone-Age Tribesmen." In Mindanao, Philippines, National Geographic magazine (August 1972) introduced the world to the Tasaday people who live in caves and are in the Stone-Age. The title of the article was, "First Glimpse of a Stone Age Tribe."

The Tasaday are stone-age cavemen, but they are intelligent people. They can make a fire by simply twisting a stick. They know a lot of other things that we do not know, we know a lot of things they do not know. The fact that they do not know what we know does not make them unintelligent. One must remember this concept as he investigates stone-age people.

The following quotation from the National Geographic, (mentioned above) shows how completely fooled anthropologists were about the Tasaday,"They were making stone axes and, catching my fascinated stare, a man rose and brought them to me. They were crude, as crude as the oldest tools of the European Paleolithic." Paleolithic is the Old Stone-Age. "Paleo" is old "lithic" is stone. These are not Neolithic -- New Stone-Age people, nor are they Mesolithic -- Middle Stone-Age people they are Paleolithic. Yet, they are making implements today, this very moment, that as soon as they are finished, look to experienced anthropologists as though they are several hundred thousand years old!

Since the intensive research on the Tasadays by experienced anthropologists was conducted, it has been discovered that the "stone-age" Tasadays of the Philippine Islands are frauds. They were only acting out the part of stone-age, cave men, apparently as a tourist gimmick. Yet they were the subject of a full length article with pictures in the National Geographic. They completely fooled experienced anthropologists who went to study them.

But there are legitimate stone-age people today. In New Guinea, Borneo, Africa, Central America, and other places where civilization has not yet gone, men still use stone implements of all kinds. Throughout history, in every generation, some people have used stone implements and lived in caves. Not everyone, of course, but in any age there are always some stone-age cavemen.

It was this way even as America developed. Indians used stone implements while "civilized" settlers used metal implements and firearms. It was true in the Middle Ages as well as at the turn of the first millenium. It was also true that, while the empires of Egypt and Mesopotamia flourished with high civilizations, some around them used stone implements and lived in caves. Even the Israelites lived in caves from time to time (Judges 6:2). Somehow, if one uncovers evidence of the stone-age, he has to prove that those remains are actually from a very long time ago by some other means than the fact that stone implements were in use. When caves are excavated, one should not assume that he will find remains of earliest, or even early, mankind. Finally, when it is said,"The Stone-Age was a period in man's development a long time ago -- hundreds of thousands of years ago -- now we are in the modern period," it is not necessarily so.

In Cappadocia, Turkey, a large area with unusual geological oddities has been developed as a cave-city. Everyone in the area lives in caves hand-hewn into these strange geological formations. But they have electricity and wear clothes. Actually it is a nice place to live. In the summer it is cool, and in the winter it is warm. No one thinks of these people as having regressed. As a matter-of-fact, these are very inexpensive dwelling places, unusually well insulated and highly habitable.

You might think that it's that way only in Turkey. But today along a stretch of the Rhone River in France, many families live in caves. Pictured at left is a "caveman" and his family. Behind him is what looks like a stone house. It is actually the blocked-up entrance to a cave in the hillside. Along the Rhone River, for 50 miles there are dozens of French families living in caves. In the morning they climb into their Renaults and Peugeots and go to work, returning in the evening to their caves and a normal life - with electricity and other modern niceties.

In our country people have realized with the energy crunch that perhaps a cave is not such a bad place to live. A man in Phoenix, Arizona (pictured at right), found a cave nearby on a hillside, modified and furnished it. People in Phoenix are jealous of this man because he is in a cave which did not cost him anything except a little refurbishing.

What I am trying to point out is that we are not so intelligent. We build our houses on top of a hill, and the wind and cold in the winter drive us out because it is so hard to heat. But cavemen, using their heads, utilized these ready-made shelters. They were every bit as intelligent as we are.

Natural caves like this, found by the hundreds
in Israel, are used to shelter animals. In a similar
cave, it is believed the Son of Man was born.

There are thousands of caves in Palestine. Shepherds use them to shelter their animals at night. Caves were used as stables in ancient times, while travelers stayed in a building above. Thus the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was probably born in a cave.

In Nazareth a huge church has been built over a cave because this cave was, traditionally, the grotto of Joseph and Mary, the cave where Jesus may have lived as a child. So Jesus, in one sense, could have been a "caveman." Whether it is true that Jesus actually grew up in this very cave or not, someone in Nazareth did.

So much for Stone-Age caveman! Even though some people lived that way does not mean that they lived a long time ago, nor that these were brute hominids developing into Homo sapiens. Their remains, when found, may not be very old!

An Evolutionary Myth

There is a myth in human evolutionary theory which says that as the brain increases in size, intelligence increases. Based on this theory, the chimpanzee with a smaller brain is less intelligent, and modern man with the largest brain, is the most intelligent (picture at right).

In the American Museum of Natural History in New York City one can find a display which says, "Intelligence is the most outstanding trait of the hominids. The best index of it available to us in the fossil record is the brain size as measured by the capacity of the bony brain case." Above that caption are various brain models(seen at left) with the cubic content of each brain represented by a cylinder with stripes. What is most astounding is that Neanderthal Man had a larger brain than modern man. In this exhibit, Homo sapiens (at top of photo) has a brain size of 1,450 cc, while Neanderthal (just below it) has a brain size of 1,625 cc.

Now what do we make of the statement, "The larger the brain, the greater the intelligence?" If that were true, Neanderthal Man should have gone to the moon and we should be back in caves. How inconsistent the statement below the display is, compared with the actual display!

Another myth is that a low, sloping forehead is an indication of less intelligence. This falsehood is not as strong an idea among evolutionists, but the transitional forms from ape to man are always shown with low, sloping foreheads. Neanderthal man is always shown with a low, sloping forehead. But a bust of a Roman ruler of Egypt a little after the time of Christ has a low, sloping forehead. He could not have been an unintelligent man. Indeed, even King Gustav of Sweden, on a 100 Kroner banknote, has a sloping forehead (see picture to right). This characteristic is no indication of a lack of intelligence.


Impressions Rather than Facts

Consider a display in a museum which begins with modern man, then points back toward an ape ancestor. (There are no actual connections between them.) The skulls in the display are simply lined up and pointed backward to give the impression that man came from apes. It is easier to produce artistic impressions than to present factual data.

Evolutionists often deny that they say, "Man came from an ape." But in the British Museum of Science in London, one of the largest natural science museums in the world, a display once and for all belies that fact (assuming it is still there). No evolutionist should deny saying that man comes from an ape. Here, in a museum seen by thousands of people every year, a sign plainly says, "Man is an animal." In another section one discovers a caption claiming that "all human beings are animals, mammals, primates, and apes."

Other displays declare that we are related to apes and that our closest living relatives are probably gorillas and chimpanzees (see display to right). The next time someone denies that they say we came from apes, simply tell them the British Museum of Science is telling that to thousands of people every year.

Another representation is found in the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Here one can see a painted impression that man and ape come off the same stem (picture to left). It looks like they branched off from the same ape-like ancestor. But it does not display the missing links -- it is not a case of one "missing link" there are no connections at all!

Paucity of Evidence for Human Evolution

A Time/Life children's book in the Emergence of Man series says,

Wait a minute! Read that first sentence again, then the last. How can it be a "proven fact" if the biggest problem is to fill in the gaps?

Several museum displays will be examined to see what is used to prove human evolution. At Fossil Man's Hall of Fame in the Field Museum in Chicago, a caption reads,

Is evolution based on specimens that are exceedingly fragmentary and lack important parts, or do they really have solid evidence? The principles are: the evidence should not be fragmentary, and the specimens should not lack important parts. Let us examine the actual evidence -- from all over the world -- presented in museums. Most of the examples are well-known almost everyone has heard of them.

Java Man

First let's look at Java Man, or Pithecanthropus erectus -- "erect ape man." The remains were found in a gravel bed on the island of Java, Indonesia. The man who found them in the 1890s was Dr. Dubois, an ardent evolutionist, who went to Java to find a missing link. And guess what -- he found it!

But how did he find it? He dug through a gravel bed as big as a gymnasium for a full year, finding dozens of bones -- animal bones and human bones -- but he selected only three for Java Man. It was not a burial they were just random bones, and probably the three bones are not even associated with each other. But he came back to Europe announcing, "Here is the missing link!" Today school children everywhere know about Java Man they are told about it from the early grades in public schools.

One of the bones is a thigh bone (seen at left). It is on display in the American Museum of Natural History. It has an accretion on it, a calcium deposit, which can be ignored. Notice the dark bone and a (white) modern bone behind it for comparison. There is no difference except that the darker bone is larger. Scientists agree that the dark bone, the bone of supposed Pithecanthropus erectus, is exactly like a modern leg bone, and, as seen in the picture, it obviously is.

The jaw bone has been judged by scientists to be a modern jaw bone. The skull cap has a low, sloping forehead. Dr. Dubois originally thought it was a human skull cap, but before he died, he finally agreed with his accusers that it was actually the skull cap of a gibbon, a great ape, and not human at all.

Dr. Dubois claimed that Pithecanthropus erectus -- Java Man -- is a "missing link" 500,000 years old. Where did he get that figure? He simply pulled it out of the air there is no support for it.

Why must our children be required to learn about Java Man in school, as if he were one of the pillars of human evolution? The entire evidence available is only two modern bones and the skull cap of an ape, not even from a burial but found scattered throughout a gravel bed.

It is ludicrous that anyone should be expected to believe that this is an authentic missing link.

Next, consider highly-touted Peking Man, supposedly 400,000 years old. What about him? We cannot show any remains of Peking Man because they were all lost in World War II. A display in the Field Museum in Chicago says 40 individuals were found. It says they were "from 350,000 to 500,000 years ago according to different geological estimates." What is another word for estimate? A "guess." They guess they are that old.

But the next paragraph falsifies the first one because it says, "The cranial capacity of the known specimens range from 850 cc to 1,300 cc, an average of 1,075 cc the upper end of the range overlaps with modem man." So they are small, modern men. The following paragraph reads, "The limb bones of Homo erectus, including both Java Man and the Peking varieties, are indistinguishable from those of modern man." So how can it be said they are 350,000 to 500,000 years old? They may be only a few thousand years old, for all we know. They are no different from modern man, so what does this show us about missing links and about human evolution?

Nothing. The bones have disappeared anyway.

So much for another pillar of human evolution - Peking Man!

Nebraska Man

A third example is Nebraska Man. It was reconstructed from one tooth found in Nebraska in 1923. In 1925, at the famous Scopes Trial, Clarence Darrow held up this very tooth as evidence of human evolution. The London Illustrated News (6/24/1922), out of that one tooth, reconstructed a complete man and woman and published a drawing seen on the front page (pictured at left). The problem with all this is that in 1927 scientists took a better look at that tooth and realized it was the tooth of a peccary - a pig (Science 66:579). This is a case of a pig making a monkey out of a man!


Piltdown Man

Evolutionists do not like to be reminded of Piltdown Man. Maybe that is because he was featured as a pillar of human evolution in museums around the world until the 1950's. Piltdown man was discovered about 1910 in England. In the early 1950's researchers did some detective work and discovered that finds associated with Piltdown Man were planted by someone at the spot where the skull was found. There is an elaborate display of what detectives found in the British Museum of Science. When the jaw bone and pieces of the skull bone were dated it was found that the jaw bone was only a little over 500 years old, and the skull was only 600 years old. When first found, it was claimed that Piltdown Man was 500,000 years old. After more investigation, it was concluded that Piltdown Man was a hoax he was deliberately planted by somebody who was anxious to prove evolution (see Recommended Readings). Now everyone knows that he was a fake. In the meantime, he had been used as one of the pillars for human evolution.

Take away Piltdown Man, wipe out Nebraska man, Java Man and Peking Man they were all modern men or hoaxes. What is left of the original specimens used to formulate theories of human evolution? Not much.

Heidelberg Man has been presented as one of the best examples of human evolution. All that is available, however, is a jaw supposedly 500,000 years old found in the 1860's in Germany. The jaw was found in a gravel quarry at a depth of about 80 feet. This quarry is located in a river valley. You would expect a river, the Neckar River in this case, to deposit many feet of gravel as it floods year after year. Instead of dating it 500,000 years old because the jaw was found 80 feet deep in river gravel, there is no reason to think it is more than a few thousand years old.

For instance, in Korea we excavated some pottery from the pre-Christian era near the surface of the ground. But, in the nearby river bed, while excavating the basement for a bank building, the very same type of pottery was found at a depth of 25 feet -- 25 feet of deposit in only a little over two thousand years!

Scientists generally agree that the Heidelberg jaw is modern. lts apparent young age does not support the theory of human evolution, even though it has been used as one of the main supports for it.

Neanderthal Man

Neanderthal Man in the Field
Museum (most recent concept).
Compare with earlier version
at the beginning of this article.

Next consider Neanderthal Man. First in importance, is that we find Neanderthal remains in burials. At the Carmel Caves in Israel, several actual burials were excavated. One of them has been mounted in the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem, and is identical to modem man. Most astonishing here, is that buried next to Neanderthal Man, is modern man. Instead of being separated by tens of thousands of years, it looks like they were contemporaries.

For many years, Neanderthal Man was represented as an imbecilic, bent-knee'd, stoop-shouldered type in the Field Museum in Chicago. But over the years researchers have developed a new view of Neanderthal Man. This new view is prevailing, fortunately. That is, that Neanderthal is really a modern man, one of us. Note the new display in the Field Museum showing an erect, intelligent person (picture at left).

At the Smithsonian Institution (in Washington, DC) is this very important statement,

Neanderthals, then, were Homo sapiens -- modern man.

At another display (pictured at right) the caption under a skull replica says, "Homo sapiens neanderthalensis." Most people are not aware that modem man used to be called Homo sapiens, whereas he is now called "Homo sapiens sapiens" because "we have a new brother". Our brother is Homo sapiens neanderthalensis he is a modern man, just as we are, with living examples still found here and there.

Neanderthal Man can no longer be a "missing link".

Cro-Magnon Man with his sophisticated art forms and paintings (examples are well known cave paintings), is even more advanced than Neanderthal Man, and was obviously a highly intelligent race of modern man.

What has happened to the pillars on which the original theories of human evolution were built? We have examined most of the evidence on which the theory was originally based, and found it entirely lacking. Other early examples only make the situation worse later examples do not help the theory, rather they bring it more than ever into question.

The Biblical Story of Man's Creation Has No Competitor

There is no need to doubt what the Bible says about the creation of man. God created him out of the dust of the earth. It is a matter of faith we cannot prove it. But our connection is with God, not with monkeys and apes. God made apes. He made man. But He did not take an ape and make a man. He made man special out of the dust of the earth and breathed into him the breath of life so our life has come directly from the Lord.

You and I are a special creation.

Finally, for Christians, the special creation of Adam (the first man), by God, is of primary importance. Both Adam and Jesus must be historical persons for two reasons at least:

  • First, "For as in Adam all died (spiritually), even so in Christ shall all be made alive" (I Corinthians 15:22). (See also Romans 5:12f.) It would have been pointless for Jesus Christ to give his life for sinners if there was no original sin by the first man Adam (per Genesis 3).
  • Secondly, Jesus' very own genealogy begins with Adam (Luke 3:23-38). It is very difficult to understand how anyone could claim to be a Bible believer and maintain that the first man, Adam, was made from a brute beast.

The diagram above, drawn by a German evolutionist, comes to its climax in a black ape becoming a black man, becoming a brown man (also illustrated in other pictures herein), who then (according to the theory of evolution and depicted in other photos above) becomes a white man. This evolutionary theory has fostered much racial persecution over the years. Hitler even picked up on this theory, claiming even "white" was not high enough, that we must be "Aryan". Some even today hold to this conclusion. This diagram is from an older publication but illustrates the origins of this theory and some of the thinking behind some racial attitudes. It has been included in order for you to better understand one of the serious problems that the theory of evolution has caused and why we believe that God's creation of us is so important. As stated above, you and I are a special creation.

"Getting at Our Roots," "Lucy and Dating Fossil Finds."
1991 ABR Newsletter, May-June.

Bowden, M.,
1977 Ape-Men: Fact or Fallacy? Kent, England: Sovereign Publ.

Cousins, Frank W.,
1971 Fossil Man. Emsworth, England: A.E. Norris & Sons.

Gish, Duane T.,
1985 Evolution: The Challenge of the Fossil Record. El Cajon, CA: Creation-Life Publ.


Every human culture includes cooking – this is how it began

Breakfast: fibrous and bitter leaves fruit. Lunch: bark fruit raw monkey meat and brains. Dinner: grubs leaves fruit.

No, not the latest food fad from Hollywood, but the diet of our closest living relatives, the chimpanzees. It is not exactly appetising or varied. We, on the other hand, have thousands of foodstuffs to choose from, and also an incredibly versatile range of techniques for altering their chemical composition through the application of heat. In other words, cooking.

Cooking is ubiquitous in humans. All cultures, from the Inuit of the frozen Arctic to the hunter-gatherers of sub-Saharan Africa, are sustained by food that has been chemically and physically transformed by heat. It was an incredible invention. Cooking makes food more digestible and kills off the bacteria that cause food poisoning. But where and when it started is hotly debated. You might call it a food fight.

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Cooking cannot happen without fire, so the answer might be found by looking for evidence of the control of flames. This is an incendiary topic, as fire is a tricky thing to identify in the archaeological record. The evidence has literally gone up in smoke, and the remains of a deliberately lit fire are hard to distinguish from those of a natural one caused by lightning. This is why archaeologists look for signs of fire in caves.

Traces of ash found in the Wonderwerk cave in South Africa suggest that hominins were controlling fire at least 1 million years ago, the time of our direct ancestor Homo erectus. Burnt bone fragments also found at this site suggest that Homo erectus was cooking meat. However, the oldest remains of obvious hearths are just 400,000 years old.

“People on a raw vegetarian diet report persistent hunger despite eating frequently and usually have a lower BMI than vegetarians who eat cooked food”

The Neanderthals who evolved from Homo erectus some 250,000 years ago certainly created fires, as hearths have been found at many Neanderthal sites, some containing burnt bones. We also know from analysing their dental plaque that Neanderthals spiced up their diets with herbs. But we don’t know whether they habitually cooked their food.

The earliest firm evidence that our own species was cooking dates back just 20,000 years, when the first pots were made in China. The scorch marks and soot on their outer surfaces point to their use as cooking utensils. But all in all, archaeological evidence doesn’t paint a clear picture. We need to look elsewhere.

Around 1.9 million years ago some major changes occurred in hominin biology. Compared with its ancestors, Homo erectus had very small teeth, a small body and a much larger brain. According to a controversial hypothesis put forward by primatologist Richard Wrangham, these changes were driven by cooked food. In fact, Wrangham believes that cooking drove our lineage’s divergence from more ape-like ancestors and that the bodies of Homo sapiens couldn’t exist without cooked food.

To understand why, imagine eating the same diet as a chimpanzee. To gain enough calories to fuel your energy-guzzling brain, you would have to devote almost all of your daylight hours to searching for food. Chimps forage more or less continuously gorillas and orangutans eat for nine hours a day.

We’d probably have to eat for even longer. Our brains are more than twice as big, and our intestines are far too small to retain low-quality raw food long enough to digest it properly. In fact, our guts are just 60 per cent of the weight expected if we were a great ape of similar stature.

Our small teeth and jaws tell a similar story. They are too small for the task of grinding down large quantities of tough raw food. Compared with earlier hominins such as Homo habilis, modern humans, Neanderthals and Homo erectus all have small teeth relative to their body size. To Wrangham, these morphological features are adaptations to cooking that arose around 1.9 million years ago.

Cooking certainly changed our ancestors’ lives for the better. Heat makes food softer, so less time is needed for chewing. It also releases more calories. Mice fed cooked food get fatter than those fed equivalent raw calories. Heat-treated food is also safer. Scavenged meat has high levels of pathogens. Roasting it on hot coals kills off germs that cause food poisoning. Another benefit of cooking is that it makes otherwise inedible foods, such as tubers, edible. And it frees up time to do more interesting things than just finding food and eating.

Food usually tastes nicer when cooked. We cannot know if our ancestors appreciated the difference, but studies with apes found that they prefer their food cooked, choosing baked potatoes, carrots and sweet potatoes over raw ones most of the time.

Don’t eat it all at once

Cooking requires cognitive skills that go beyond controlling fire, such as the ability to resist the temptation to scoff the ingredients, patience, memory and an understanding of the transformation process. Recent experiments with chimps found that they have many of the cognitive and behavioural skills needed for cooking – and therefore it’s likely that Homo erectus did too.

There are, however, flaws in the cooking hypothesis. Many of the adaptations attributed to cooked food such as large brains could have arisen through an increase in raw meat consumption. The disconnect in time between the biological evidence and the control of fire is another stumbling block.

But whenever cooking was invented, it has evolved into one of the most varied and inventive elements of human culture. We cook thousands of different types of animal, plant, fungus and algae using a dazzling array of techniques. We spend far more hours planning and preparing food than actually eating it, and then sit down to watch programmes about it, hosted by people who have become millionaire household names. We cook, therefore we are.

What about meat?

Cooking causes meat to lose calories due to fat melting out. But it also becomes easier to digest and less likely to cause food poisoning, which probably compensate.

Digesting raw meat is difficult, using up about a third of the energy you have just consumed. In experiments with pythons, cooking meat reduced the cost of digestion by 13 per cent.

Mice fed a 100 per cent meat diet lose weight, but if the meat is cooked they lose it more slowly.

Browned off

One of the most important processes in cooking is the Maillard reaction, named after the French chemist who described it in 1912. A reaction between sugars and amino acids, it is what creates the brown compounds that make meat, toast, biscuits and fried foods so delicious. Humans generally prefer food that has undergone the Maillard reaction.

From an evolutionary perspective this is hard to explain. The Maillard reaction makes food – especially meat – less digestible, destroys nutrients and produces carcinogenic chemicals. It may be that the other benefits of cooking food massively outweigh these detriments, and so we have evolved to prefer browned food. But that doesn’t explain why it is also preferred by great apes, which can’t cook and won’t cook.

This article appeared in print under the headline “What was the first cooked meal?”


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