Recently, paleoanthropologists discovered evidence that suggests Homo erectus used fire one million years ago. Prior to this important discovery, scientists theorized fire had been used back then but had no direct evidence.
Francesco Berna of Boston University and his colleagues made their discovery at Wonderwerk Cave in South Africa. In the past, the only clue of fire use by Homo erectus was evidence of decreasing sizes of teeth and jaws over time. These evolutionary changes indicated that early humans were eating cooked food.
Berna was the first person to find physical evidence of burned particles of bone and plant material from the time of Homo erectus. He and his team of researchers analyzed particles of cave sediment under a microscope; his sample was found roughly 100 feet inside of the cave, making it unlikely that this substance was burned by lightning or wildfire.
Learning to use fire was a crucial turning point for our species. According to Berna, “control of fire is a tool for adapting to different environments. It provides warmth, it provides light… and it keeps animals away.’’
[Source: Archeology Magazine]