Did Neanderthals learn to make fire before us?

If you found yourself empty handed in a forest, out on the savannah, or up on a mountain, would you be able to start a fire just with the rocks, soil and wood around you?

How would you do it? Would you rub two sticks together like you’ve seen in the movies? Or play around with smashing different kinds of stones together until the right combination threw off sparks? How long might you try until you gave up if it didn’t work?

And perhaps most importantly: why would you do it? To keep yourself warm? Cook food? Keep dangerous animals away?

“Fire is fundamental to the human condition – everybody today uses fire, we just don’t see it as often because we hide away in factories and internal combustion engines, but everything we have around us is based on fire at the most basic level,” says archaeologist Andrew Sorensen of the University of Leiden.

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