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Primitive Man's Relationship with Fire and the Environment

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Primitive Man's Relationship with Fire and the Environment

Common knowledge holds it that primitive man was a being barely more developed than the ape, existing without culture, innovation, or technological prowess. This belief focuses especially on homo erectus, an ancestor of man who lived from about 2 million to roughly 200,000 years ago. It is commonly believed that h. erectus was a creature existing in technological stasis, without the ability to advance his existence through innovation, and void of culture. This type of thinking could quickly be altered, though, if recent discoveries hold true. Recent evidence points to a distinct possibility that h. erectus may have been the first ancestor of man to harness the power of fire. Such a finding would greatly alter the current system of beliefs in regard to the evolution of man and the status of man's ancestors during the time of h. erectus. These findings would indicate that h. erectus did have some culture, and some innovative skill that allowed him to control his environment. The evidence supporting the taming of fire by h. erectus is not beyond reproach, though. In fact, it has come under heavy questioning. A desire for even stronger evidence could eventually dispel the notion that this primitive version of man could control fire, and allow for maintenance of the current belief that man did not truly evolve into a being with any type of culture until the existence of homo sapiens.

Up until the year 2000, a great deal of evidence surrounding man's use and control of fire indicated that such technology probably did not appear until roughly 200,000 years ago. The implication that h. sapiens was the first in the line of mankind to control fire was supported by evidence found at a site in Zhoukoudian, China. While it had been believed for some time that Zhoukoudian was the first site of controlled fire, evidence found through more exhaustive research indicates otherwise. There are no hearths at the site in China. Nor are there any food remnants. Such evidence leads to the belief that the burnt bones found at the site are probably the result of a natural fire (Wuethrich). The lack of strong evidence supporting the site as one in which man's control of fire is displayed supported the belief that h. erectus lacked technological prowess and culture.

The next best candidate for the site of man's first documented control of fire was a collapsed sea cave in Menez Dregan, France.
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