New findings may indicate fire was used by humans – NRK Urix – Foreign Affairs News & Documentary

Homo Naledi

Homo naledi was discovered about ten years ago in the Rising Star Caves near Johannesburg in South Africa. Scientists now believe they may have used fire and flame as a tool – before man wrote CBS News.

After losing more than 20 kilograms last August, Professor Lee Berger has finally managed to squeeze through the narrow passages in the cave system.

– When I finally descended into the cave, I looked up. I saw the ceiling of the cave completely black. It was simply burnt and covered in soot, says the paleontologist, a professor at the University of Johannesburg.

He wanted to see for himself where colleagues had found bone remains of this kind Homo nalediwhich may have lived as late as 230,000 years ago.

After researchers found the remains of a child in the caves, which they believed to be in some kind of burial chamber, Berger was criticized for assuming that the Homo naledi species buried its dead in underground chambers. Critics believed that no progress could be made in these darkened rooms without light.

Professor Lee Berger holds the skull of a young Homo naledi.

Picture: Luca Sola/AFP

Burnt animal bones

“They didn’t think Homo naledi, which has a very small brain, could use fire,” Berger tells CBS News.

Based on the bone remains found, Homo naledi may have been about 150 cm long and about 45 kg in weight. The brain is described as small, one-third the size of a human brain.

It’s hard to find clear answers with a couple of lines under them when looking for something that happened hundreds of thousands of years ago. Individual results are interpreted, contextualized, and discussed among researchers.

So far it has been agreed that to be able to use flame as a tool, and not least to be able to make it yourself rather than to carry it with you, required great intellect. The brain of Homo sapiens.

Berger and his team found no evidence that Homo naledi might have used fire until last year. The results were not known until the end of this week.

On the same day that he discovered signs of soot on the cave’s ceiling, paleobiologist Kenilo Molopian found hearths with charred pieces of wood and burnt bones of nearby antelopes and other animals. The researchers believe this may indicate that the meat they ate was fried.

– TThe rudder is set on fire

Later they found the remains of stoves in several places in the cave system.

– Based on our findings, I think not only did they use fire, but they also made it. Perhaps ahead of us, Berger says, are humans.

He believes that the discovery of stoves will challenge our assumptions about man’s unique ability to create advanced tools from what surrounds us in nature.

– It should make us think whether we have placed man on a pedestal as something very special, he says.

Reproduction of a fossilized skull of a Naledi Homo sapiens that scientists now believe used fire in caves.

Reproduction of a fossilized skull of a Naledi Homo sapiens that scientists now believe used fire in caves.


George Washington University paleontologist Andrew Barr was not part of the research team. He believes the first step is to more accurately date the results, before one can speculate on who started the fire

The main challenge for the researchers is to date the burnt wood and bone remains, in order to document that they originated at the same time as the Homo naledi fossils, Barr says, according to Science News.

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Jabori Obasanjo

Jabori Obasanjo

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