One of the most powerful forces on Earth is fire. Humans’ use of fire is widely regarded as a distinctive trait of intellect that sets us apart from other animals.

In a paper published today in PNAS, scientists describe an advanced new method they trained and used to identify non-visual traces of fire dating back at least 800,000 years – one of the earliest known evidence of fire. use of fire.

Researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science are working hard to examine this claim, or at least to clarify what constitutes smoke.

The newly developed method can help advance archeology towards a more scientific and data-driven approach, but perhaps more importantly, it can allow us to understand the roots of human history, our most fundamental customs and our experimental and creative nature.

discovery of fire

(Photo: BIROL BEBEK/AFP via Getty Images)

Fire requires three essential parts. A fuel must first exist for combustion. Since combustion is primarily an oxidation reaction that releases heat and light, oxygen must also be readily available. Third, a source of heat or ignition is necessary for the fire to start, in accordance with TIME.

The presence of charcoal is the main source of evidence for the presence of a flame in the fossil record. This is plant material that has partially burned after a fire has actually been extinguished.

Charcoal found in rocks formed in the Silurian, around 420 million years ago, has been used so far for the first fire ever observed on Earth.

Although plants had already colonized the earth at this time, the variation in oxygen levels in the earth’s atmosphere meant that the first large-scale forest fires were not discovered until later, around 345 years ago. million years ago during the Carboniferous period.

We know of instances in Earth’s past where atmospheric oxygen concentrations were higher than they are now. Fires would be extremely hot and more frequent during these times.

According to recent studies, many plants, including pines, eucalypts and proteas, which have successfully adapted to arid environments or even need fire to reproduce, may have first appeared around at that time, about 90 million years ago.

We can logically only speculate as much. However, it is difficult to find evidence of the first frequent use of fire, as it can be difficult to spot ancient hearths. Individual incidents are also only occasionally useful; evidence must come from many places.

The ability to handle fire seems to be something modern humans take for granted. However, we must avoid becoming overconfident.

The nature, extent and frequency of wildfires are changing dramatically due to the spread of non-native grasses like cheater in North America and gamba in Australia.

It would be wise for us to remember that fire has played an important role in Earth’s history for the past 420 million years and will do so long after we are all gone.

Read more: This soot-free blue fire could help generate clean energy

The use of fire

The ancient hominids, a group that represents people and some of our prehistoric ancestors, are believed to have first used fire in a controlled way at least a million years ago, around the same time that Homo habilis began to diverge into Homo erectus, according to ScienceDaily.

This is no coincidence because the kitchen hypothesis, the working theory, argues that the use of fire played a crucial role in our evolution by allowing hominids not only to keep themselves warm, to make sophisticated tools and repel predators, but also develop cooking ability.

Meat that has been cooked is not only free from pathogens, but also has high nutritional value and more efficient protein digestion, which promotes brain development.

The only problem with this theory is the lack of data. Traditional methods have only been able to uncover widespread evidence of the use of fire that does not date back more than 200,000 years, as attempting to find geological remains of pyro technology depends primarily on identifying the modifications caused by the combustion of objects (mainly, a change in color).

Even though there is evidence of a fire dating back 500,000 years ago, it is still scarce, with only five archaeological sites worldwide offering reliable evidence of an ancient fire.

Related article: Archaeologists trace how ancient humans tamed fire 1 million years ago

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