On the possible use of fire by Homo erectus at Zhoukoudian, China
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For decades, the so-called Peking Man (Homo erectus pekinensis) at Zhoukoudian has been considered to be a hominin that engaged in the controlled production and management of fire. However, relatively recent analyses have cast doubt on this assertion. The most compelling reason for this doubt was the absence of siliceous aggregates in the Zhoukoudian deposits. This study presents evidence establishing the controlled use of fire by Homo erectus pekinensis through analyses of four soil samples sourced from Layers 4 and 6 at Zhoukoudian Locality 1. These results demonstrate that all four specimens contain siliceous aggregates as well as elemental carbon, and the potassium content of the insoluble residues of these specimens ranges between 1.21 % and 2.94 %. The analyses provide strong evidence of the in situ use of fire by Homo erectus pekinensis.
KeywordsHomo erectus Zhoukoudian Fire use Middle pleistocene Siliceous aggregate Elemental carbon
The authors thank L. He, J.H. Shi, and T.R. Fu for fruitful discussions; and X.J. Mei for field and laboratory assistance. This work was supported by the Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (XDA05130202), and was identified as a Major Basic Research Project of the Ministry of Science and Technology of China (2007FY110200). Support was also received from the State Administration of Work Safety.
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