Neanderthals used fire chemistry, suggest scientists in Science Shots 29 February 2016 and Scientific Reports doi:10.1038/srep22159, published online 29 February 2016. A group of scientists from The Netherlands have investigated blocks of manganese dioxide found at the Pech-de-l’Azé I Neanderthal site in France. The blocks showed evidence of abrasion in order to obtain powdered material from the blocks, and it had been assumed they were used as a source of black pigment. However, the Netherlands scientists point out that other more easily obtained substances, such as soot and charcoal, could be used if the Neanderthals simply wanted pigment for artistic purposes. Finding, transporting and using manganese dioxide requires more effort.

The researchers also noted the manganese dioxide blocks were associated with fireplaces in the Neanderthal sites. It is well known that Neanderthals used fire, but it has been assumed they took advantage of naturally occurring fire, e.g. from lightning strikes, rather than knowing how to ignite a fire themselves. The Netherlands research team challenged this assumption and conducted some experiments with wood and powdered manganese dioxide. They found the powder significantly lowered the temperature needed for wood to ignite, thus making it far easier to start a fire. They wrote in their report: “With archaeological evidence for fire places and the conversion of the manganese dioxide to powder, we argue that Neanderthals at Pech-de-l’Azé I used manganese dioxide in fire-making and produced fire on demand”.

Science Shots, Scientific Reports

Editorial Comment: The ability to light and control a fire is acknowledged as one of the skills that separates man from animals. Furthermore, recognising manganese ore as being more than just a black rock implies some knowledge of chemistry and properties of minerals.

There is much speculation as to how semi-intelligent ape-men could have developed this knowledge. The Bible tells us human beings had these abilities from the beginning. Genesis tells us about minerals in the vicinity of the Garden of Eden, and about people who forged metal tools and made musical instruments, which requires an understanding of the properties of metals and the highly-skilled use of fire.

Therefore, this new evidence that Neanderthals had some of this knowledge is no surprise to us. Like all other people who lived after the judgement at Babel, their ancestors would have come away from the multi-story tower with some of the knowledge the people of Babel had before they were scattered, and that would have included some knowledge of minerals and technology that needed fire.

Rather than being “almost-humans” on the way up from ape-men, Neanderthals were fully human, highly intelligent people making the most of living in the harsh environment of ice-age Europe, where being able to light, sustain and control fires would be essential for survival. (Ref. chemistry, mineralogy, anthropology)

Evidence News vol. 16, No. 6
13 April 2016
Creation Research Australia