A fish tooth messes up the history of fire and humanity



Carp teeth discovered near a dry lake in Israel show signs of carbonization that throw back the beginnings of human cooking by more than 600,000 years.

An international team of researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University and the Natural History Museum in London have discovered traces of food preparation dating back more than 780,000 years at the site of Gesher Benot Ya’aqov in the Hula Valley!

However, scientists have previously assumed that the use of fire to prepare food dates back about 170,000 years. That’s a difference of 610,000 years… So it’s a discovery that, if confirmed, will call into question a crucial period in human history.

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Those teeth held a surprise

However, the researchers only came to this conclusion from a tiny detail. Excavating at different levels at the site of former Houla Lake, which was drained in the 1950s to fight mosquitoes and malaria, archaeologists have now collected “maw teeth” – the teeth used to crush shells – from nearly two-metre-tall carp extinct.

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“These teeth showed clear signs of wear,” the scientists write in a paper published in the journal Nature, “but they also held a surprise: the crystals in the enamel showed burn marks at different temperatures, in a way that did not correspond to a spontaneous or random fire. »

“It could only mean one thing: the fish had been cooked by someone who knew what they were doing. But these remains of carp teeth date back 780,000 years… long before cooking was invented. How could that happen?” continue the authors of the study.

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These cooking marks were not due to chance

The archaeologists managed to get a fairly accurate picture of this event, at least enough to be convinced that these traces of cooking were not due to chance: “We do not know exactly how the fish was cooked, but given the in den Since there is no evidence that they were exposed to high temperatures, it is clear that they were not cooked directly in the fire, nor thrown in as waste or material to be burned.”

According to the researchers, this use of fire to cook fish largely determined “a persistent and continuous presence of a large human population on the shores of the lake.” Or how the fate of mankind can be contained in a carp tooth.

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