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The Magical Pull of Fire

The magical pull of fire: flames dancing above a fire made after hedge cutting in Shropshire, with the ancient hill fort of Caer Caradoc in the background. From an early age I have encountered fire rather than seeking it out – a comment on its ubiquity.  When I was 12 we children saw smoke from a garage fire, which I managed to photograph, achieving a scoop in the local paper.  Later on archaeological excavations we repeatedly saw burnt material, and I can remember being impressed by a complete Roman kiln where the firing had gone wrong, still full of pots.  Fragments of Roman tile often have fingerprints preserved by the baking.  For a field archaeologist there is the huge privilege of sitting by almost countless camp fires in the bush, learning, sometimes cooking, and occasionally even finding time to excavate them – at Kilombe forty years after our original camp (so the years pass!).  These fires remind us of the practicalities of foraging for fuel, even finding space to sit and talk, with feet roasting and backs chilled in the wind.

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Participant: John GOWLETT
ACE, School of Histories, Languages and Culture | University of Liverpool
Presentation: "Issues of fire control in the mid-Pleistocene: evidence from Beeches Pit, UK, in evolutionary and socioecological context"