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Man used fire to make tools 1.64 lakh years ago

Stone Age "blacksmiths" used fire to make sharp tools 164,000 years ago — much earlier than the scientists thought, a new study has revealed.

world Updated: Aug 15, 2009 01:27 IST

Stone Age "blacksmiths" used fire to make sharp tools 164,000 years ago — much earlier than the scientists thought, a new study has revealed.

Previously the first use of heat treatment was thought to have been in Europe 25,000 years ago. The technique wasn't believed to have been invented until long after ancestors of modern humans had left Africa and settled in Europe and Asia.

Now, an international team has discovered that people were using fire to make sharp blades out of poor stone 164,000 years ago, the New Scientist reported.

According to scientists, just as raising temperature can change the properties of iron and other metals, the early humans heated stone to make it easier to flake -- the process transformed silcrete into a raw material for tool manufacture.

Lead scientist Kyle Brown of University of Cape Town in South Africa said: "Our illumination of the heat treatment process shows that these early modern humans commanded fire in a nuanced and sophisticated manner.

"We show that early modern humans at 72,000 years ago and perhaps as early as 164,000 years ago in coastal South Africa, were using carefully controlled hearths in a complex process to heat stone and change its properties, the process known as heat treatment."