Homo Erectus Used Controlled Fire

Homo Erectus

Man used controlled fire at least a million years ago according to a recent find by archaeologists. Some scientists think this went back to 1.5 million years and they are looking for further evidence.

We now believe that modern human behavior did not rise during the middle Stone age with Homo sapiens, but rather 500,000 years earlier with Homo Erectus. The discovery of controlled fire adds to this theory.

Mati Milstein in Tel Aviv, Israel

for National Geographic News

January 12, 2010

It’s long been thought that so-called modern human behavior first arose during the middle Stone Age, in “modern” humans—Homo sapiens.

Homo Sapien

But a new study suggests modern living may have originated roughly 500,000 years earlier—courtesy of one of our hairy, heavy-browed ancestor species.

At the prehistoric Gesher Benot Ya’aqov site in northern Israel, researchers have found the earliest known evidence of social organization, communication, and divided living and working spaces—all considered hallmarks of modern human behavior.

The former hunter-gatherer encampment dates back as far as 750,000 years ago, and must have been built by Homo erectus or another ancestral human species, archaeologists say. Homo sapiens—our own species—emerged only about a couple hundred thousand years ago, fossil record suggest.

At the site, researchers found artifacts including hand axes, chopping tools, scrapers, hammers and awls, animal bones, and botanical remains buried in distinct areas.

“Different tasks”—from nut processing to seafood preparation—”were taking place in different locations in the site,” said archaeologist Naama Goren-Inbar, who led the excavation.

“The modification of basalt tools was done in proximity to the fireplace but, on the other hand, flint [sharpening] was done on the other end of the site in association with where we found a lot of fish teeth,” said Goren-Inbar, of Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology in Mount Scopus, Israel.

Traditionally, the search for the earliest signs of modern human behavior has focused on Homo sapiens sites from the middle Stone Age (roughly 300,000 to 50,000 years ago), due to the preponderance of evidence found at them in the past…Read here: National Geographic


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