300,000-year-old firepit found in Israel could be the first example of a social campfire

The fire-pit found near Tel-Aviv could hold the secret to the beginnings of social culture among early humans

Humans may have used fire as a social focus 300,000 years ago, a new study into a cave in Israel suggests.

Full of ash and charred bones, the 6.5 feet wide hearth discovered in the Qesem Cave, 11 miles east of Tel Aviv, could help archaeologists learn more about the development of human culture.

It also puts into question the popular theory that Homo sapiens arose in Africa 200,000 year ago.

Fragments of stone tools used for killing and slicing animals found a few feet away from the pit, alongside layers of ash, indicate the fire was used repeatedly over time as a sort of base camp

Ruth Shahack-Gross of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel said the findings could point towards a time when humans first began to regularly use fire both for cooking meat and as a focal point for social gatherings.

“[The findings] also tell us something about the impressive levels of social and cognitive development of humans living some 300,000 years ago,” Ms Shahack-Gross said.

The study conducted by Ms Shahack-Gross and her colleagues, which was published in the 'Journal of Archaeological Science', argues that whoever built the pit must have had a certain level of intelligence.

Experts have debated over which homini species –comprising of the Homo genus- was first responsible for using fires in a controlled manner. Evidence found in Wonderwerk Cave in South Africa suggests that fire was used in this way at least 1million year ago, while other anthropologists argue that the teeth of a Homo erectus had adapted to cooked food over 1.9 million years ago.

Archaeologists discovered other traces of fire at the Qesem Cave when it was uncovered over a decade ago during the construction of a road to Tel Aviv.

Researchers thought remains including scattered deposits of ash, clumps of soil that had been heated to high temperatures, and the remains of large animals, had been left by pre-historic cave dwellers up to 400,000 years ago.

A 2010 study into the traces caused controversy in the archaeology world as it questioned the theory of Homo sapiens originating in Africa, but the archaeologists were unable to draw a concrete conclusion from the evidence.

Read more
DNA from a 50,000 year old toe shows Neanderthals were highly inbred  

 

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Accessory Fitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Accessory Fitter required. Bristol

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Telesales Advisor - OTE £30,000

£14000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is very proud of t...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Sales

£75000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Head of Sales position is offered on...

East15 Acting School: Finance and Contracts Officer

£20,781 to £24,057 per annum: East15 Acting School: The post involves general ...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen