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      Evidence for the repeated use of a central hearth at Middle Pleistocene (300 ky ago) Qesem Cave, Israel

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      Journal of Archaeological Science

      Elsevier BV

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          On the earliest evidence for habitual use of fire in Europe.

           W Roebroeks,  P Villa (2011)
          The timing of the human control of fire is a hotly debated issue, with claims for regular fire use by early hominins in Africa at ∼ 1.6 million y ago. These claims are not uncontested, but most archaeologists would agree that the colonization of areas outside Africa, especially of regions such as Europe where temperatures at time dropped below freezing, was indeed tied to the use of fire. Our review of the European evidence suggests that early hominins moved into northern latitudes without the habitual use of fire. It was only much later, from ∼ 300,000 to 400,000 y ago onward, that fire became a significant part of the hominin technological repertoire. It is also from the second half of the Middle Pleistocene onward that we can observe spectacular cases of Neandertal pyrotechnological knowledge in the production of hafting materials. The increase in the number of sites with good evidence of fire throughout the Late Pleistocene shows that European Neandertals had fire management not unlike that documented for Upper Paleolithic groups.
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            Evidence for habitual use of fire at the end of the Lower Paleolithic: site-formation processes at Qesem Cave, Israel.

            The Amudian (late Lower Paleolithic) site of Qesem Cave in Israel represents one of the earliest examples of habitual use of fire by middle Pleistocene hominids. The Paleolithic layers in this cave were studied using a suite of mineralogical and chemical techniques and a contextual sedimentological analysis (i.e., micromorphology). We show that the lower ca. 3m of the stratigraphic sequence are dominated by clastic sediments deposited within a closed karstic environment. The deposits were formed by small-scale, concentrated mud slurries (infiltrated terra rosa soil) and debris flows. A few intervening lenses of mostly in situ burnt remains were also identified. The main part of the upper ca. 4.5 m consists of anthropogenic sediment with only moderate amounts of clastic geogenic inputs. The deposits are strongly cemented with calcite that precipitated from dripping water. The anthropogenic component is characterized by completely combusted, mostly reworked wood ash with only rare remnants of charred material. Micromorphological and isotopic evidence indicates recrystallization of the wood ash. Large quantities of burnt bone, defined by a combination of microscopic and macroscopic criteria, and moderately heated soil lumps are closely associated with the wood-ash remains. The frequent presence of microscopic calcified rootlets indicates that the upper sequence formed in the vicinity of the former cave entrance. Burnt remains in the sediments are associated with systematic blade production and faunas that are dominated by the remains of fallow deer. Use-wear damage on blades and blade tools in conjunction with numerous cut marks on bones indicate an emphasis on butchering and prey-defleshing activities in the vicinity of fireplaces.
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              Mode of Occupation of Tabun Cave, Mt Carmel, Israel During the Mousterian Period: A Study of the Sediments and Phytoliths

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Journal of Archaeological Science
                Journal of Archaeological Science
                Elsevier BV
                03054403
                April 2014
                April 2014
                : 44
                :
                : 12-21
                Article
                10.1016/j.jas.2013.11.015
                ebc013e9-bd9e-4553-967e-f9b88b84d653
                © 2014

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