January 1, 2013

Asian Homo erectus may have used fire and clothes

That is what a media news is claiming on this New Year's night: that Peking man, an early member of a long diverged branch of Humankind (understood as the genus Homo in full) may have already used artificial fire and leather clothing.

While this may seem quite necessary for any kind of people living as far North as Beijing (roughly the latitude of Philadelphia) the possibility that our cousin's adaption to cold was biological, by means of retaining ancestral fur instead of our techno-cultural way, was open.

Now some researchers from the Chinese Academic of Science's Institute of Palaeoanthropology and the University of Toronto think that they have some evidence that could support the use of fire and clothing.

As far as I can tell no study has been published yet, so I'm telling from the media alone.

Sources: Live Science, MSBCN - h/t Unreported Heritage News.

PS - Happy 2013 to all. 


  1. I have always been skeptic about continuity between Peking Man (erectus) and people living ~200,000 to 300,000 ya in China. Has such continuity ever been established? On the flip side, there are sites in Siberia by arguably more recent people that may have closer affinity to heidelbergensis or Neanderthal.

    Other papers have tentatively suggested that such people moved into China in that time frame, and were the first to extensively (and unambiguously) use fire. We need more actual fossils...

  2. "Has such continuity ever been established?"

    Not that I know. Not likely at all in fact. Why? Because some of the source articles use the erroneous term "ancestor" instead of "relative"?

    The whole story is not about nobody descending from nobody but about an Homo erectus using (allegedly) fire, (leather) clothes and maybe even hafted tools or weapons. But there's nothing specific in the articles other than the claim. I looked for more specifics but could find nothing yet.

  3. Da la impresión, por lo que se lee de los especialistas en estos temas, que el homo sapiens de aquellas zonas no derivan de aquellos erectus, sino que han venido nuevamente de África y los han suplantado, y con un probable hueco en el tiempo entre los unos y los otros.
    Hay datos de que no solo el sapiens sapiens ha conseguido dominar el fuego.

    1. Sí, eso es lo que yo entiendo también.

  4. Thanks for info Maju!!, it is very interesting; i'm looking for additional information but i cannot find nothing else. Spears, leather work...and finally fire control (again)... it is great information about Homo Erectus.

    As you know and we discussed several times, it is not surprise for me because i believe in the humanity and hability of all of the members of genus homo.

    I will put the info in my blog as soon as i can.

  5. I have tried for some time to find a citable paper behind the media reports that Peking Man used hafting technology and clothes, for instance in Huffington Post:

    So far nothing. I contacted The Royal Ontario Museum which seems to have been the source, but apart from a list of presentations given at a meeting there in December 2012, I was not able to find a paper or even an abstract on the web or via Google Scholar. ROM directed me to the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

    Anyone able to post a link?

    According to ROM the papers at the meeting were:-
    Dr. Xing Gao: Do we have Evidence that Peking Man Made and Used Fire?
    Dr. Xiaoling Zhang: Use-Wear on Tools: how do we know what tools Peking Man made and used?
    Dr. Yue Zhang: Excavating & Re-excavating the Peking Man Site: What Difference does it Make?
    Dr. Shuangquan Zhang: Exhibiting the Peking Man and Preserving for the Future

  6. → http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15120264 (from 2004 however, by Boaz et al.)

    Even though the presence of wood-stoked fires and hearths is not supported by geochemical results, evidence of fire at Locality 1 in the form of burned bone is confirmed. Contextual relationships of fossil skeletal elements, relationships of carnivore damage and stone tool cutmarks on bone, and evidence of the burning of fresh bone associated with Homo erectus and stone tools support a model of transient hominid scavenging aided by the use of fire at the large hyenid den that became Zhoukoudian Locality 1.

    It is posterior to another paper by Goldberg et al. (2001) which questioned the 1998 evidence by Weiner et al.

    → http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9657718/
    → http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11681863/

    I could not find anything more recent for China, however for Africa:

    → http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3356665/ (2012)

    ... and for Europe:

    → http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3069174/ (2011)

    ... in general:

    → http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3141990/ (2011)

    Hope it helps.


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