How Did Hominins Adapt to Ice Age Europe without Fire?

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Publication Type: Journal Article
Authors: Dibble, Harold L.; Abodolahzadeh, Aylar; Aldeias, Vera; Goldberg, Paul; McPherron, Shannon P.; Sandgathe, Dennis M.
Year of Publication: 2017
Journal: Current Anthropology
Volume: 58
Issue: S16
Pagination: S278 - S287
Date Published: 2017/08/01
Publication Language: eng
ISBN Number: 0011-3204
Abstract:

Analyses of archaeological material recovered from several Middle Paleolithic sites in southwest France have provided strong corroborating data on Neanderthal use of fire. Both direct and indirect data show that Neanderthals in this region were frequently and/or intensively using fire during warmer periods, but such evidence declines significantly in occupations that took place during colder periods. One possible explanation for this pattern is that it reflects the inability of Western European Neanderthals to make fire, simply because natural sources of fire occur much more frequently during warmer climatic periods. Regardless of the explanation, the long periods of diminished evidence of fire shows that, unlike modern humans, these hominins were not obligate fire users, and this fact in itself raises important questions of how they adapted, physiologically and/or technologically, to the generally harsh glacial conditions of the middle latitude of Europe and to reduced energy returns typical of raw food. As a corollary, it also raises questions regarding their need for and use of fire during the warmer periods.Analyses of archaeological material recovered from several Middle Paleolithic sites in southwest France have provided strong corroborating data on Neanderthal use of fire. Both direct and indirect data show that Neanderthals in this region were frequently and/or intensively using fire during warmer periods, but such evidence declines significantly in occupations that took place during colder periods. One possible explanation for this pattern is that it reflects the inability of Western European Neanderthals to make fire, simply because natural sources of fire occur much more frequently during warmer climatic periods. Regardless of the explanation, the long periods of diminished evidence of fire shows that, unlike modern humans, these hominins were not obligate fire users, and this fact in itself raises important questions of how they adapted, physiologically and/or technologically, to the generally harsh glacial conditions of the middle latitude of Europe and to reduced energy returns typical of raw food. As a corollary, it also raises questions regarding their need for and use of fire during the warmer periods.

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doi: 10.1086/692628

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/692628
Short Title: Current Anthropology
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