Chemical and physical evidence from the oldest hearth found to date has led Professor Avi Gopher and Professor Ran Barkai of Tel Aviv University and Dr. Ruth Shahack-Gross of the Kimmel Center for Archeological Science at the Weizmann Institute of Science to conclude that man began using fire as a tool about 300,000 years ago in an article published in the Jan. 27, 2014, edition of the Journal of Archaeological Science.
The 300,000 year old fire place found in the Qesem Cave, a prehistoric archaeological site near Rosh Ha’ayin, Israel, contained bone fragments from animals, wood ash, and demonstrated evidence of repeated high temperatures.
Microscopic examination of the layers of compacted soil, bone, and rocks indicated repeated use of this part of the cave by numerous generations of early humans as a hearth.
The additional evidence of flint objects designed specifically for food preparation led the researchers to conclude that the cave and hearth served as a base camp for cooking in an early human society that is the oldest known to have tamed fire for their use.
The development of the mentality that could make fire into a tool may be evidence of true human habitation of the Qesem Cave as early as 400,000 yeas ago and may be construed as evidence of a different human ancestor than what is considered modern man.