Spanish archaeologists have recreated three common types of Paleolithic lighting systems. The research results are published in the journal PLOS ONE.
Prehistoric artists lived deep in dark caves and decorated them with various images. Scientists from Spain asked the question – how did the ancient people manage to create in pitch darkness?
Archaeologists from the University of Cantabria put themselves in the shoes of their ancestors. They tried to illuminate their path in the cave using the same devices that ancient people had.
Researchers have collected archaeological evidence of how torches and oil lamps were made during the Paleolithic era. After collecting all the data, they created their own copies of the ancient lamps. And to test how well they work, the team went to the Isunza I cave in the Basque region of Spain.
Archaeologists in turn tested the capabilities of torches made of juniper wood, birch bark, pine resin, ivy vine. In addition, they used stone lamps using deer and cow bone marrow. After conducting an experiment, the scientists evaluated the pros and cons of a juniper and oak fire pit.
As a result, the team found that torches from multiple twigs tied together were best for helping people explore caves or traverse wide areas in the dark. Such torches gave light at a distance of six meters. Nor did they blind those who carried them. And this despite the fact that the light from them was five times more intense than from an oil lamp. In addition, the torches were easy to carry, and the branches lasted 40 minutes.
Animal fat oil lamps were best suited for lighting small spaces. In addition, they provided light for over an hour. But moving around the cave with them was extremely inconvenient.
As for the fire with juniper and oak wood, there was a lot of smoke from it, and its duration was short-lived – no more than half an hour.