The Neandertals did know how to make fire
The Neandertals did know how to make fire

An archaeologist from the University of Leiden, Andrew Sorensen, has described the first material evidence that Neandertals did know how to make a fire in a study published in Scientific Reports , which belies the idea that they only depended on naturally occurring fire, such as natural fires caused by lightning, for example.


To make fire, the Neanderthals struck a piece of pyrite, a mineral containing iron, with flint tools.

Together with the French archaeologist Emilie Claud and the Leiden archeology professor Marie Soressi, Sorensen discovered a very specific microscopic wear in the flint hand axes (also called bifaces) of the Middle Paleolithic, the Neanderthal era. As it explains:

These are the traces you get if you try to generate sparks by hitting a piece of flint against a piece of pyrite. These hand axes are much older than the fire-making tools in which this wear has been found so far.

Sorensen and Claud studied dozens of 50,000-year-old hand axes from various sites throughout France. They found the same distinctive wear in all of them. In addition, with a combination of microscopic research and experiments, Sorensen discovered that traces of wear were specific to fire making.

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