A cross-cultural survey of on-site fire use by recent hunter-gatherers: Implications for research on Palaeolithic pyrotechnology

Journal of Paleolithic Archaeology Vol/Iss. 3(1) Springer Published In Pages: 566-584
By McCauley, Brea, Collard, Mark, Sandgathe, Dennis


This study analyzed fire use in 93 hunter-gatherer groups based on ethnographic texts from eHRAF in order to improve our understanding of early hominin fire use. The researchers collected data on the groups' methods of making fire, the ways they used fire, and when and where they created fires. The study found that some groups either did not know how to make fire using traditional methods or had very few members who knew how to use such methods. The study also found that many groups preferred to preserve fire rather than create it anew, even carrying it between camps. Beyond this, the ways in which fire was created and used varied widely between hunter-gatherer groups. These findings have implications for understanding early pyrotechnology and the interpretation of the presence or absence of fire residues in the Palaeolithic archaeological record. The results suggest that the absence of fire residues may indicate the absence of fire-making knowledge and skills rather than just taphonomic processes, and that the presence of fire residues does not necessarily indicate the ability to manufacture fire.


Sample Used Coded Data Comment
eHRAF World CulturesResearchers' ownUsed 36 search terms to identify passages related to fire use amongst hunter-gatherers

Documents and Hypotheses Filed By:jacob.kalodner