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Homo sapiens and the now-extinct Neanderthals were thought to be unique in their ability to use fire as a tool.

Now, a discovery suggests that the two hominid species weren’t alone, according to The Hill.

Paleoanthropologist Lee Berger and his colleagues discovered evidence that another pre-human ancestor, Homo naledi, used fire for cooking and staying warm.

Berger’s team recently explored South Africa’s Rising Star caves where remains of H. naledi were first discovered in 2013. The hominid species is believed to have lived between 236,000 and 335,000 years ago – around the time H. sapiens appeared, Science News reported.

Excavations in the cave system showed evidence of soot on the walls and hearths containing burnt animal bones. Other caves also contained the remains of burnt wood, which suggests that the H. naledi used fire for warmth, cooking, and light.

This is particularly astonishing because the extinct hominids had smaller brains – about one-third the size of modern human brains.

“We are fairly confident…that this small-brained hominid, Homo naledi, that existed at the same time we believe Homo sapiens were sharing parts of Africa, was using fire for a variety of purposes,” Berger said during a lecture at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington earlier this month.

While researchers found no evidence of other hominid species, they are planning to radiocarbon date the remains of the fire and the bones to prove that the material comes from the same sediment layers as the H. naledi fossils.

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