On the evolution of human fire use

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Publication Type dissertation
School or College College of Social & Behavioral Science
Department Anthropology
Author Parker, Christopher Hugh
Title On the evolution of human fire use
Date 2015-05
Description Humans are unique in their capacity to create, control, and maintain fire. The evolutionary importance of this behavioral characteristic is widely recognized, but the steps by which members of our genus came to use fire and the timing of this behavioral adaptation remain largely unknown. These issues are, in part, addressed in the following pages, which are organized as three separate but interrelated papers. The first paper, entitled ""Beyond Firestick Farming: The Effects of Aboriginal Burning on Economically Important Plant Foods in Australia's Western Desert,"" examines the effect of landscape burning techniques employed by Martu Aboriginal Australians on traditionally important plant foods in the arid Western Desert ecosystem. The questions of how and why the relationship between landscape burning and plant food exploitation evolved are also addressed and contextualized within prehistoric demographic changes indicated by regional archaeological data. In the second piece, ""The Pyrophilic Primate Hypothesis,"" recent paleoenvironmental reconstructions and models from Optimal Foraging Theory are used to construct an evolutionary scenario of human fire dependence during the Plio-Pleistocene transition in Africa ~2.5-2.0 million years ago. The foraging benefits identified in this fire-altered habitat are linked to our evolutionary ancestors' transformation into a genus of active pyrophiles whose dependence on fire for survival contributed to its expansion out of Africa. The final paper, ""On the Archaeological Signature of Human Fire Use: Analyses, Interpretations, and Implications for Understanding the Evolution of Pyrotechnic Behaviors,"" reviews recent debates about the timing of anthropogenic fire based on archaeological data. The efficacy of archaeological markers in constructing hypotheses of prehistoric human fire use is assessed by comparing archaeological fire signatures, or lack thereof, in Europe and North America. Each paper constitutes one component of a broader intellectual goal: to show that genus Homo is a primate adapted to and dependent upon fire for its survival and reproduction. Our genus' active pyrophilia is a unique trait, and it is hoped that the following pages contribute to a better understanding of how, when, and why this trait evolved.
Type Text
Publisher University of Utah
Subject Australian Aborigines; Behavioral ecology; Fire ecology; Foraging theory; Homo erectus; Human evolution
Dissertation Institution University of Utah
Dissertation Name Doctor of Philosophy
Language eng
Rights Management Copyright © Christopher Hugh Parker 2015
Format Medium application/pdf
Format Extent 556,580 Bytes
Identifier etd3/id/3751
ARK ark:/87278/s69g8w55
Setname ir_etd
Date Created 2016-02-29
Date Modified 2017-12-11
ID 197302
Reference URL https://collections.lib.utah.edu/ark:/87278/s69g8w55
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