Nature Publishing Group, publisher of Nature, and other science journals and reference works
my account e-alerts subscribe register
Wednesday 18 October 2017
Journal Home
Current Issue
Download PDF
Export citation
Export references
Send to a friend
More articles like this

Letters to Nature
Nature 336, 464 - 466 (01 December 1988); doi:10.1038/336464a0

Evidence from the Swartkrans cave for the earliest use of fire

C. K. Brain* & A. Sillent*

*Transvaal Museum, PO Box 413, Pretoria 0001, South Africa
Department of Archaeology, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch 7700, South Africa

During recent excavations of hominid-bearing breccias in the Swartkrans cave altered bones were recovered from Member 3 (about 1.0–1.5 Myr BP) which seemed to have been burnt. We examined the histology and chemistry of these specimens and found that they had been heated to a range of temperatures consistent with that occurring in campfires. The presence of these burnt bones, together with their distribution in the cave, is the earliest direct evidence for use of fire by hominids in the fossil record. Although abundant remains of Australopithecus robustus and Homo cf. erectus are found in the older Members 1 and 2 at Swartkrans, there is no evidence of fire, suggesting that the discovery of fire was made in the interval between Members 2 and 3 and before A. robustus became extinct.



1. Shipman, P., Foster, G. & Schoeninger, M. J. Archaeol. Sci. 11, 307−325 (1984).
2. De Niro, M. J. Nature 317, 806−809 (1985). | Article | ISI | ChemPort |
3. Vrba, E. S. in Hominid Evolution Past Present and Future (ed. Tobias, P. V.) 195−200 (Alan R. Liss, New York, 1985).
4. Brain, C. K. et al. S. Afr. J. Sci. (in the press).
5. Grine, F. E. Proceedings of the International Symposium on the Evolutionary History of Robust Australopithecines (in the press).
6. Gowlett, J. A., Harris, J. Walton, D. & Wood, B. A. Nature 294, 125−129 (1981). | Article | ISI |
7. Barbetti, M. J. hum. Evol. 15, 771−782 (1986).

© 1988 Nature Publishing Group
Privacy Policy