Setting fire in a Paleolithic Cave: The influence of cave dimensions on smoke dispersal

Yafit Kedar, Gil Kedar, Ran Barkai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hearths are considered a central element in reconstructing activity areas, artifact distribution, and spatial organization of human activities in Paleolithic caves and rock shelters. However, research regarding the rationale for hearth locations within the cave is lacking. Smoke is a major negative product of hearths, which has an immediate effect on human health. Smoke dispersal from a hearth may even prevent, in certain circumstances, the presence of humans in the cave after a short period of use. In this study, we investigate the relation between cave dimensions and smoke dispersal following the principals of the air circulation model published recently by us. In order to analyze the influence of different parameters of cave dimensions on smoke dispersal, we simulated these parameters using actual Paleolithic cave dimensions. We show that hearth location, cave mouth height, and season of use are the critical parameters affecting smoke dispersal. As such, these variables should be taken into account when reconstructing human uses of Paleolithic caves with active hearths. Further research and simulations are planned to extend the preliminary results presented in this paper to include a wider range of cave dimensions, and thus this study is universally relevant for better understanding caves in which fire was habitually used.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102112
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
StatePublished - Feb 2020


  • Air-circulation
  • Cave
  • Fire
  • Hearth
  • Paleolithic
  • Simulations
  • Smoke

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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