Who are you calling a Neanderthal?

It’s fair to say that being called a ‘Neanderthal’ is a comparison probably not at the top of anyone’s 2017 wish list, but the conception of our often unfairly judged ancestors of being brainless brutes is slowing being chipped away at – not least by discoveries that shed light on their relationship with fire and ingenious ways of generating heat. One of the most spectacular uses of fire by Neanderthals was in the production of a sticky liquid called pitch from the bark of birch trees that was used to haft, or fit wooden shafts on, stone tools. Since the only way to create pitch from the trees is to burn bark peels in the absence of air, archaeologists surmise Neanderthals dug holes in the ground, inserted birch bark peels, lit them and covered the hole tightly with stones to block incoming air.           Thankfully the days of procuring bark and sitting around holes in the ground are long gone. However, as we launch headlong into a new year in what seems to be an increasingly uncertain world; a world dogged by increasing concern about climate change and the environmental impact of our collective energy choices, we could harness the learnings of our early ancestors and seek inspiration from one of the oldest fuel sources known to man – wood. Whisper it quietly, but a sustainable heating movement is gathering pace throughout the country as more and more people wake up to the secret of Biomass heating. The use of wood as a fuel source is older than civilisation itself, but the rise of Biomass...