Dr. Francesco Berna is Assistant Professor at Simon Fraser University's Department of Archaeology, where he teaches introductory and advanced courses in archaeology. Born in Rome, he graduated from the University of Florence, where he also obtained his PhD. The main focus of his research is on the origin of modern behaviour and the onset of the controlled use of fire during the Lower and Middle Paleolithic in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. The biology, diet, habitat, and behavior of our species are deeply entangled with the use of fire to the point that our survival is, essentially, dependent upon fire control. New archaeological finds in Africa and Europe revealed that the history of use of fire is more complex than previously hypothesized. To date, four general hypotheses have been formulated for the role played by fire in the evolution of the Genus Homo. In this presentation Dr. Berna will illustrate how our archaeological work at Wonderwerk Cave in South Africa is contributing to test these four hypotheses. Wonderwerk cave, in fact, provides uninterrupted human occupation spanning the last two million years and a complete cultural sequence comprising all known prehistoric stone tools cultures, rock art, and recent Bushmen and Boer frequentations. His work using multiple lines of microscopically contextualized evidence shows that the cave preserves a series of intact prehistoric surfaces and evidence of fire associated with all the cultural assemblages. In particular, heated bones are associated with the Oldowan lithic industry dated to about 1.7 million years ago and remains of small camp fires with Acheulean stone tools dated to ca. 1 million years ago.
September 12, 2014 at 6:30pm
Istituto Italiano di Cultura
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