Scientists believe they've uncovered the earliest known evidence of human fire usage. Charred bones and plant ash sediment found in Wonderwerk Cave in South Africa suggest that Homo erectus was playing with fire a whopping 1 million years ago, more than twice as far back as previous evidence had indicated, according to a study published yesterday by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Indeed, these early humans may even have been cooking.
There is convincing evidence that mankind had fire 400,000 years ago, the LA Times explains, but scientists are divided on how much earlier it struck its first sparks. To determine that these newly found bone fragments had indeed been burned, scientists examined them under infrared light to examine their mineral structure. Since the bones were deep within the cave, they were likely not burned by some accidental wildfire, though researchers admit they didn't find a smoking gun like a hearth. (Read more fire stories.)