Anthropologists have debated what constitutes the earliest evidence of controlled fire use -- and which hominin species was responsible for it. Ash and burnt bone in Wonderwerk Cave in South Africa suggests human ancestors used fire at least 1 million years ago.
Some researchers, meanwhile, have speculated that the teeth of Homo erectus suggest this early human was adapted to eat food cooked over a fire by 1.9 million years ago. A study out last year in the Cambridge Archaeological Journal argued that fire-builders would have needed some sophisticated abilities to keep their hearths burning, such as long-term planning (gathering firewood) and group cooperation.
It's not entirely clear who was cooking at Qesem Cave. A study published about three years ago in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology described teeth found in the cave dating to between 400,000 and 200,000 years ago. The authors speculated the teeth might have belonged to modern humans (Homo sapiens), Neanderthals or perhaps a different species, though they noted they couldn't draw a solid conclusion from their evidence.
Nonetheless, study researcher Avi Gopher, an archaeologist from Tel Aviv University, said in an interview with Nature at the time, "The best match for these teeth are those from the Skhul and Qafzeh caves in northern Israel, which date later [to between 80,000 and 120,000 years ago] and which are generally thought to be modern humans of sorts."
That interpretation is at odds with the predominant view that modern humans, the only human species alive today, originated about 200,000 years ago in Africa before dispersing to other parts of the world.
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