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One Million Year Fires And Hot Shit

Two fascinating pieces of information come from a Nature article about the discovery of million year-old ash in a cave far beneath the ground.

1. Lightning could not have reached this part of the cave to start a fire of organic materials there, so the researchers surmise that ancestors of modern humans must have either created fire in the cave or transported fire to the cave. The implication of their discovery is that ancestors of modern humans already had some control over the use of fire one million years ago. Homo erectus, and perhaps other species of humans, were living at that time, but remains of Homo sapiens of anything close to that age have not been found.

2. One of the alternative explanations that researchers eliminated was that the fire could have started in a pile of bat guano. Apparently, piles of decomposing bat guano can become so hot that they light on fire all by themselves. No traces of bat guano were found on the site, however.

4 thoughts on “One Million Year Fires And Hot Shit”

  1. Dove says:

    I doubt the Mythbusters will be able to resist when they hear about #2.

    1. Truman says:

      I myself have been to a cave where there was a 20 foot thick pile of bat guano. It was not hot. But, that was not deep in a cave. Perhaps it was too wet?

  2. NomNomNom says:

    “…Apparently, piles of decomposing bat guano can become so hot that they light on fire all by themselves….”
    This is ridiculous. If this were true how could the White House and Capitol still be standing?

  3. Tom says:

    Here’s something else that happened way back and an explanation for it:

    http://thinkprogress.org/romm/issue/

    Nature Bombshell: ‘Past Extreme Warming Events Linked To Massive Carbon Release From Thawing Permafrost’
    (article begins)
    “Between about 55.5 and 52 million years ago, Earth experienced a series of sudden and extreme global warming events (hyperthermals) superimposed on a long-term warming trend. The first and largest of these events, the Palaeocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), is characterized by a massive input of carbon, ocean acidification and an increase in global temperature of about 5?°C [9°F] within a few thousand years.”

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