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manganese oxides

4 March 2016

At http://phys.org/print376045573.html … and various sources. The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research has provided the information on a paper in Scientific Reports (Feb 2016) by researchers from Leiden and Delft. The subject is Neanderthals and the use of fire – and the research area was a well known site in the Dordogne of France going back 50,000 years (or thereabouts). Why anyone would think Neanderthals did not light fires to warm themselves on a cold winter evening is something only they can put into words. Proof of course is something else. Now, researchers have shown pretty conclusively that Neanderthals lit fires – and how they obtained the spark to start the process off. They used manganese oxides in order to light woody material. This method is unknown amongst modern hunter gatherers – or even recent hunter gatherers. Manganese oxides added to wood shavings or other tinder material such as dried plant stalks and grasses was used to obtain a spark before more material was added, twigs etc., and eventually more woody elements. Using manganese oxides makes the rigmarole more easy that starting a fire using sparks from a flint, for example. Making a fire was something that was learned and passed down from generation to generation – and Neanderthals in the Dordogne had worked out that manganese oxides were a useful element to include in the initial process, causing a spark that could be nurtured along. Nowadays we are likely to just strike a match – but even then the initial spark is not enough. One has to nurse the small fire along and feed it in order to get a good amount of heat that is capable of consuming larger and larger pieces of wood, and plant material.

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