A review of supposed archaeological hearths in Europe have suggested humans expanded into cold northern climates without the warmth of fire.
The second major finding of the study was that Neanderthal predecessors pushed into Europe's colder northern latitudes more than 800,000 years ago without the habitual control of fire, said Wil Roebroeks of Leiden University in the Netherlands.
Archaeologists have long believed the control of fire was necessary for migrating early humans as a way to reduce their energy loss during winters when temperatures plunged below freezing and resources became more scarce.
"This confirms a suspicion we had that went against the opinions of most scientists, who believed it was impossible for humans to penetrate into cold, temperate regions without fire," said Paola Villa, a curator at the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History.
Recent evidence from an 800,000-year-old site in England known as Happisburgh indicates hominids - likely Homo heidelbergenis, the forerunner of Neanderthals - adapted to chilly environments in the region without fire, Roebroeks said.
The simplest explanation is that there was no habitual use of fire by early humans prior to roughly 400,000 years ago, indicating that fire was not an essential component of the behavior of the first occupants of Europe's northern latitudes, said Roebroeks.
"It is difficult to imagine these people occupying very cold climates without fire, yet this seems to be the case," added Roebroeks.
The findings have been published in journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (ANI)