After examining millions of fish fossils, researchers from the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution reported that they may have discovered the earliest indications of cooking with fire. This is in contrast to the ‘definitive evidence’ that Neanderthals and early Homo sapiens left behind, which dates from 170,000 years ago; the new study shifts the time frame to more than 600,000 years.
According to a study by Israeli researchers, early humans who lived 780,000 years ago cooked. However, this assertion has caused some debate among archaeologists because it is difficult to demonstrate that fires were used for anything other than warmth.
The study comes after 16 years of research, which catalogued thousands of fish remains found in Gesher Benot Ya’aqov in northern Israel.
Irit Zohar, the first author and an archaeologist at Tel Aviv University’s Steinhardt Museum of Natural History, claimed that they discovered these old fish fossils along the Jordan River’s banks, which aided their research.
She claimed in an interview with AFP that their initial indication came from the fossils’ abundance of teeth, which had ‘almost no fish bones’ in them.
Notably, according to the study, the majority of the teeth were from two exceptionally large species of carp that were over two metres long and may have been chosen for their ‘succulent’ meat. Her colleague discovered burned flints and other signs of a fireplace in the same location.
The first author also said that the presence of only teeth suggests cooking because fish bones soften and disintegrate at temperatures under 500 degrees Celsius. However, they found ‘decisive’ after studying the teeth enamel, Zohar added.