University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > PalMeso Seminar Series > Smoke on the water, fire in the cave? Evidence for fire making in the Palaeolithic

Smoke on the water, fire in the cave? Evidence for fire making in the Palaeolithic

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Fire has been so thoroughly engrained into the functioning of our modern society that it has become virtually invisible. But this was not always the case. In both the more recent and much deeper past, the hearth was the primary locus for domestic and social activities. Moreover, fire did not just appear at the push of a button or a strike of a match, but had to be coaxed and conjured—sometimes through considerable effort—from inert materials like two pieces of wood vigorously rubbed together, or from striking a piece of flint against a nodule of pyrite to elicit sparks. My talk focuses in on this very aspect of our long history as “pyrophilic primates”: fire production. I will do my best to briefly outline the who, what, where, when, why and how of fire making by our Palaeolithic ancestors, as murky as the waters might be. I will therefore concentrate on the shallower depths of time—where the water is a bit clearer—and discuss the archaeological evidence for fire production systems utilized by late Neandertals and early modern humans in Europe during the Last Glacial period.

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This talk is part of the PalMeso Seminar Series series.

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