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Ash and bone fragments recovered from Wonderwerk Cave in South Africa show that humans used fire to cook and stay warm earlier than thought before.
Scientists say that they have found evidence that our human ancestors used fire over a million years ago.
A new discovery of bone and ash fragments dating back to a million years in the Wonderwerk Cave in South Africa, shows that humans cooked and used fire for warmth earlier than once thought, said the New Scientist.
The oldest known ash traces created by humans using fire before this discovery come from an Israeli site dating back 790,000 years.
Fire was a milestone in human evolution.
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It gave human populations the ability to cook, thereby increasing their intake of nutrients and allowing them to stay warmer and healthier in harsh climates.
Research into the first use of fire by humans has been fraught with difficulties reported the Wall Street Journal, as it is often problematic to decipher a human-lit fire from a wild one.
A fire inside a cave is, however, more straightforward say researchers.
The depth of the burned sediment also might suggest that the fires were lit on the same spot numerous times, said the BBC.
Yet, it was unlikely the fire was lit on purpose but rather brought into the cave opportunistically after a wildfire.
"There's no evidence to suggest they were creating fire. I think they were making occasional and opportunistic use of natural wildfires," said Michael Chazan, a study author from the University of Toronto, according to the New Scientist. "The burnt bone fragments – including bits of tortoise bone – suggest, but do not prove, that H. erectus was cooking food."
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