Sunday, April 17, 2016

A NEW LOOK AT HOW EARLY HUMANS DISCOVERED FIRE

Fire, a tool broadly used for cooking, constructing, hunting and even communicating, was arguably one of the earliest discoveries in human history. But when, how and why it came to be used is hotly debated among scientists. A new scenario crafted by University of Utah anthropologists proposes that human ancestors became dependent on fire as a result of Africa's increasingly fire-prone environment 2-3 million years ago.

As the environment became drier and natural fires occurred more frequently, ancestral humans took advantage of these fires to more efficiently search for and handle food. With increased resources and energy, these ancestors were able to travel farther distances and expand to other continents. The study was funded by the National Science Foundation and the findings were published April 10, 2016 in Evolutionary Anthropology.

Current prevailing hypotheses of how human ancestors became fire-dependent depict fire as an accident—a byproduct of another event rather than a standalone occurrence. One hypothesis, for example, explains fire as a result of rock pounding that created a spark and spread to a nearby bush. "The problem we're trying to confront is that other hypotheses are unsatisfying. Fire use is so crucial to our biology, it seems unlikely that it wasn't taken advantage of by our ancestors," said Kristen Hawkes, distinguished professor of anthropology at the U and the paper's senior author.

The team's proposed scenario is the first known hypothesis in which fire does not originate serendipitously. Instead, the team suggests that the genus Homo, which includes modern humans and their close relatives, adapted to progressively fire-prone environments caused by increased aridity and flammable landscapes by exploiting fire's food foraging benefits.



Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2016-04-hypothesis-human-ancestors-advantage.html#jCp

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