It is still one of the facts supporting the claim that early humans in Africa two million years ago used fire. Despite being an unintentional discovery, archaeologists say the Wonderwerk Cave has revealed new information about how early humans controlled fire.
The layers of soil excavated by Boston University researchers over millions of years revealed that the early men were able to light fires in the cave using dry leaves and branches.
This discovery has put to rest a decade-long debate about whether early men appreciated using fire to prepare food after hunting and gathering, as chronicled by Discover magazine.
According to the journal, the researchers were initially looking for signs of prehistoric fires to determine the age of the earth’s layers.
After analyzing it, the team discovered the remains of million-year-old campfires, putting an end to the age-old debate. According to Paul Goldberg, an archaeologist at Boston University, the research team discovered the layers of earth after digging chunks of soil from the site.
He claims that they dried it in the sun and then soaked it in a polyester resin to allow the particles to solidify.
He recalled how they were overjoyed when the results of their scientific analysis revealed the presence of ashes.
Paul stated that after further investigation, they discovered leaf and stick fragments as well as animal bones. He believes the features of the bones, such as sharp edges and leaves, indicate that the early humans lit fires in the cave rather than out in the open.
Further archaeological analysis of the layers of earth revealed that the flames burned at temperatures between 750 and 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit, which was typical of small fires made of bushes and sticks.
There were some who questioned whether early men were capable of undertaking such a task. Archaeologists believed that early humans had larger brains as they walked, hunted, and created their own world space.
Some schools of thought have advanced arguments in support of early humans lighting fire, claiming that it was done to ward off predators, sleep comfortably, and make their hunt easier to feed on.
Archaeologists who opposed this viewpoint claimed that the only environment in which early humans could light fire was a controlled environment such as a cave. They frequently dismissed that possibility because such evidence was unavailable.
Early excavations of possible fire evidence revealed fungus and minerals on the rock layers. The Wonderwerk cave discoveries, on the other hand, put an end to this debate.
Paul and his team claim to be digging deeper and analyzing layers of earth dating back 1.8 million years in order to consolidate their evidence on early humans’ use of fire in Africa.