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It is generally accepted that pyrotechnology or the manipulation of fire began in Europe around 25,000 years ago, however new evidence has come to light that may suggest it began in South Africa 50,000 years earlier.

A cache of weapons made from a stone called silcrete have been found with a glossy red colouring. This suggesting that the people discovered that heating the rock would transform it from a poor material for tool making, into an outstanding one as it would make it easier to flake allowing for more advanced blades and other tools to be made.

The findings were published in August 2009 and suggest that some of the 72,000 year old tools were mounted on handles and used to hunt, amongst other things, Cape buffalo and the tiny mole rat, made in to knives or into valuable items for exchange purposes.

According to archaeologist Kyle Brown of the University of Cape Town, the control of fire is of the utmost significance as it marks the point in our evolution when we became ‘uniquely human’.

Brown claims that far from fitting the stereotypical image of the brutish, unintelligent caveman, these people demonstrated high levels of intelligence and may even have been responsible for colonizing the rest of the world.


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