How primitive people light up the darkness

Gulu, the father of the Primitive Gulu family, drew a warm picture of a family of six on the rock wall with a torch. Perhaps it was not just a scene in the movie "Crazy Primitives", but a true portrayal of the cave dwellers in the Paleolithic age.
  Faced with these breathtaking murals, people can't help but speculate, how did primitive people overcome the darkness and illuminate their lives, from "grazing and drinking blood" to "slashing and burning"?
  Now, we may be able to "see" the dark cave in front of primitive people from a paper published in the "Public Science Library-General" on June 17.

What kind of cave in the eyes of primitive people

  The vivid Paleolithic murals under the modern lighting system were created tens of thousands of years ago. At that time, what were the rocks and colors in front of the artist?
  "Primitives entered the cave and painted these amazing murals, but what lighting did they use? Maybe people can imagine that these ancient humans used torches or stone lamps to illuminate the rocks in front of them, but how did these tools come about? How long to burn and how many meters to illuminate? These are the questions I tried to answer in the paper.” Corresponding author of the paper and Mañeles Medina-Alcaide of the University of Cantabria, Spain, was interviewed by the Chinese Journal of Science. Shi said.
  As a result, Medina-Alcaide and others conducted field tests on three common lighting systems in the Paleolithic age-torches, grease lamps and bonfires, and reproduced how cave dwellers explored, lived and created art in the depths of the cave.
  The researchers chose the Isuntza 1 cave in the Basque Country, Spain, and simulated the Paleolithic cave environment as much as possible based on archaeological evidence, and copied 5 types of torches (materials are ivy, juniper, oak, birch, and pine resin. ), two stone lamps using animal fat (taken from the bone marrow of cattle and deer) and a small fire pile (oak and juniper wood).
They found that different lighting systems have different characteristics, indicating that they may be selected and used in different environments.
  Perhaps, the scene of the Guru family running around holding a torch is true. Moreover, the use of lighting systems by ancient humans has shown extraordinary wisdom.

What is the perfect tool

  Researchers have found that torches made of multiple wooden sticks are most suitable for exploring caves or traversing vast spaces because they can project light in all directions (in the experiment, the irradiation range reaches almost 6 meters) and is easy to transport. Moreover, this kind of lighting equipment will not dazzle people, although its light intensity is almost 5 times that of oil lamps. The average burning time of the torch is 41 minutes, of which the shortest is 21 minutes and the longest is 61 minutes. The main disadvantage is that it produces a lot of smoke.
  In contrast, oil lamps are best for illuminating small spaces over a long period of time-their light intensity is similar to candles, and can shine up to 3 meters away (if you add more lamps or more wicks, you can illuminate more space ). Although the oil lamp is not suitable for mobile use due to dazzling eyes and the inability to illuminate the ground, it can burn continuously (more than 1 hour) without much smoke, and can be used in conjunction with torches.
  However, the common bonfire in movies or novels failed. Researchers made a bonfire in the cave, but it burned with a lot of smoke and extinguished after 30 minutes. They pointed out that this kind of lighting system may not be suitable due to airflow problems in the cave.
  "The duration of the torches left a deep impression on me. Although in a narrow space, the torches produce smoke and bother users, but in wide cave passages, they are perfect tools." Medina-Alcaide said, "Another On the one hand, we found in the Atxurra cave that in a narrow cave with Paleolithic animal murals (mainly bison and horses), primitive people prefer to use oil lamps that do not produce smoke. This is a kind of concave Sandstone pebbles can burn plant wicks soaked in bone marrow oil."
  However, whether torches or lamps are used, unless the light shines from the top of the rock wall, it is difficult for primitive people to see the top from the lower part of the mural, nor can they see the full picture of these rock art. However, they seem to strategically arrange the "fire pond", and the burning fire illuminates the entire space.
  The entrance to the mural area is illuminated by torches. This does not seem to be accidental, the researchers estimated that the best route is also covered with scattered ash, which must have fallen from torches used in the Ice Age.

Scientific Experiments in Archaeology

  Artificial lighting is one of the important resources for the complex social and economic behavior of humans in the Paleolithic age.
  Humans cannot see things in the dark, so they need to use light to enter the depths of the cave, and its range also depends on the physical characteristics of the lighting system, such as the intensity of light, the radius of action, the type of radiation, and the color temperature. These characteristics also determine people's perception and use of the environment (such as artistic creation, funeral activities and cave exploration).
  Medina-Alcaide mentioned that the first reliable evidence of life inside ancient human caves (where artificial lighting is essential) is related to Neanderthals. For example, in the Brunicar cave in France, at a distance of 336 meters from the entrance, the six man-made ring structures made up of 400 cave deposits contain more than 18 traces of fire (possibly charred bones). Through calcite uranium dating, the researchers determined that the time of these activities was 176,000 years ago.
  But for a long time, people know little about the physical characteristics of Paleolithic lighting resources, although this is a key aspect of studying human activities in caves and other dark environments.
  “Remains of flint or bone products, as well as artworks such as murals, have attracted the attention of researchers in the past few decades. On the contrary, the remains of the lighting system, such as charcoal falling from torches, discarded lamps or There have been few studies on heated soil surfaces so far," Medina-Alcaide said.
  "Archaeological records and field experiments must be connected dialectically. The research of questions from archaeological evidence determines the design of the experiment, and the results obtained through the latter provide new tools for the former." The researchers wrote in the paper.
  This time the hands-on experiment in the cave was born. "We conducted experiments in natural caves with no archaeological remains, and took care not to affect the environment and the animals living there. The light that lit up was exciting." Medina-Alcaide said.
  The researchers believe that the actual insights and observations gained from their experimental recurrence will help to gain a deeper understanding of what it might be like to enter the darkest part of the cave, and emphasize that future experimental lighting studies will continue to reveal that human ancestors were in the cave activity.
  Passing through dark caves, the apocalyptic world, the fantasy forest world... The Guru family began to search for new "caves", Medina-Alcaide and others will continue to experiment with other types of fuel, such as charred bones. (Reporter Tang Feng)

via Guangming Daily

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