Early Europeans unwarmed by fire

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The logical argument that ancient human ancestors had to have mastered fire before departing balmy Africa for the often freezing climes of Europe is being challenged by a review revealing that there is no evidence to support the idea.

Exactly when fire became a tool in the hominin toolbox is a thorny issue. Unlike stone tools, which hold together reasonably well over the course of time and can be dated as having been in hominin hands for at least 2.6 million years, the ash and charcoal that are often the only remains from ancient fires are rare in the fossil record as they are easily destroyed by the elements.

Yet because fire makes food so much more energy efficient to consume and has such a key role in providing warmth, most anthropologists have agreed that hominins had to have mastered fire before they headed into Europe.

"We assumed fire had to be an element of the human toolkit to survive northern-latitude winters," says archaeologist, Francesco d'Errico at the University of Bordeaux in France....

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