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Michael Chazan 
BGC Visiting Fellow
University of Toronto

Tracing the Long Prehistory (and Future) of Fire 

As the response to global warming leads towards a fundamental recalibration of our relationship to fire, it is timely to look back into deep time at the origins of our entanglement with combustion.  This brief talk draws on my experience working on the recovery of early evidence for human use of fire at the sites of Woderwerk Cave, South Africa and Evron Quarry, Israel. I will argue that we should not think of an origin of human use of fire but rather of an emerging relationship between humans and fire. The hallmark of this relationship is that fire draws together technology and society; material and the intangible; adaptation and the sacred. 

Michael Chazan is a Paleolithic archaeologist specializing in the study of stone tools. He is a professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Toronto and serves as the coordinator for the Material Culture and Semiotics Program at Victoria College. For the past fifteen years, he has codirected the Wonderwerk Cave in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa. At Wonderwerk Cave and in the neighboring site of the Kathu Province, the project brings together an international research team to explore a rich archaeological record stretching back almost two million years. The results of this research have contributed to our understanding of the environmental context of human evolution and have also led to discoveries of some of the earliest evidence for the use of fire by early humans and traces of early precursors of symbolic artifacts. Professor Chazan has published widely, including authorship of World Prehistory and Archaeology: Pathways Through Time, a widely used textbook now in its fifth edition with Routledge. He is also the author of The Reality of Artifacts: An Archaeological Perspective (Routledge, 2019), which develops an argument for the consideration of artifacts as an extension of the self and as a critical component in the process of human evolution.

Tuesday, February 14, 12:15 pm Lunch will be served at noon.
38 West 86th Street, Lecture Hall

Registration required.

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