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Lecture | Studium Generale

Beyond Prometheus: Pursuing the origins of fire production among early humans

Wednesday 14 November 2018
The Future of Archaeology
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden

Fire is ubiquitous in our modern lives: from producing electricity, to cooking our food, to powering our cars. Yet, many of us today rarely come into direct contact with fire on a daily basis. This is in stark contrast to the near-constant presence of fire among modern hunter-gatherers and our earlier hominin forbearers, again emphasising the paramount importance of this resource. Determining when exactly fire first entered the human technological repertoire has proven difficult to pin down and is outside the purview of this talk. Instead, Sorensen will focus on the later stages of fire use when hominins were regularly utilizing and producing fire, specifically zooming in on Neandertal fire use during the Last Glacial period (ca. 115,000–40,000 years ago) and on how this practice has manifested in the late-Middle Palaeolithic archaeological record.
This talk first delves into the complexities associated with the production and preservation of various fire evidences and how different environmental and/or cultural conditions—including the possession of fire making technology—can either enhance or mute archaeological fire signals. After that Sorensen presents the first direct artefactual evidence of regular fire making by Neandertals.

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