Our ancient human ancestors from hundreds of thousands of years ago made sophisticated tools with the help of fire. Israeli researchers analyzed flint blades, flakes, and pot lids that were unearthed inside of Qesem Cave located east of Tel Aviv. The tools date back to between 420,000 and 200,000 years ago.
The controlled heat of the fire helped them in making their blades a better quality. “Levantine hominins may have purposefully heated materials to different temperatures in order to enhance the production of tools,” explained Filipe Natalio who is an archaeologist from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, and an author of the study. “The use of fire to treat raw materials was an important discovery made by early hominins.”
The researchers studied the items by using a scanning technique called spectroscopy so that they could find out the precise temperatures in which the flints were heated at. They were able to determine that the blades were heated at 498 degrees Fahrenheit (259 degrees Celsius), while the flakes reached a temperature of 775 degrees Fahrenheit (413 degrees Celsius), and the pot lids were heated at 837 degrees Fahrenheit (447 degrees Celsius).
Dr. Natalio went on to say, “These tools are mainly made of flint — a material which is readily available all over the country — and they were produced in a process called knapping,” adding, “That's using another rock or tool to chip off pieces — honing a sharp edge.” “In short, these are unique and advanced behaviours. Our ancestors not only knew how to use fire — they also developed sophisticated technologies for making tools.” Several pictures of the tools found in Qesem Cave can be seen here.
Qesem Cave was first discovered 20 years ago by people who were building a road and researchers have found very interesting items in there over the years including the first known fireplace in the world. The fireplace in addition to flint tools and charred animal bones reveal that ancient families cooked and ate their meals in the cave.
The inhabitants of the cave would have used the fire-made tools to butcher the food they caught which included deer, horses, oxen, rhinoceroses, wild goats, wild pigs, and tortoises.
And previous reports revealed that the ancient people who inhabited the cave stored bone marrow “like tinned soup” and they kept bones from deer wrapped up in skin in order to preserve them for when they needed extra food.
While other tools had been previously found from the Late Lower Palaeolithic period, it wasn’t known for sure whether or not they were intentionally heated with fire when ancient humans created them. This new discovery at Qesem Cave proves that humans from hundreds of thousands of years ago were quite smart in order to be able to create tools in such a sophisticated manner by using fire to enhance their quality.
Their study was published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour and can be read in full here.