News & Opinion | July 25, 2018 5:00 am

Neanderthals Probably Started the Fire, New Study Shows

Every year we find more evidence that Neanderthals shared commonalities with us.

neanderthal
Illustration of Neanderthal man sitting around fire holding lance-like weapon; circa 30,000 BC. (Time Life Pictures/Mansell/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

Each year, we learn more about the commonalities shared between modern humans and Neanderthals. In fact, Neanderthal DNA makes up roughly two percent of the genome of people with European and Asian heritage, reports Smithsonian Magazine. And now, a new study suggests that Neanderthals even had the technology that we believed only our species had mastered: Making fire on demand.

Archaeologists have found Neanderthal fire pits before, and there is evidence that fire was an important part of their lifestyle. But researchers have previously suggested that Neanderthals had to rely on natural events like lightning strikes and forest fires to get the fire started, then they painstakingly preserved it.

But research by Andrew Sorensen of Leiden University and his team shows that flint had been used to start fire based on microscopic marks left on the surfaces of pyrite. The findings, however, are controversial, though other researchers do believe that Neanderthals starting their own fires is more likely than the natural events theory.