Who made fire

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All serious researchers agree that there would be no people today without fire. Fire is an important key to the physical, mental and cultural development of prehistoric man, who thereby distanced themselves further and further from their ape-like ancestors. From the mere use to the generation and "control" of the fire, however, it was a further step that took hundreds of thousands of years.

First fire use

It is unclear when primitive man first used a fire for his own purposes. The further the researchers go back in time, the smaller the number of sites preserved and the more uncertain the interpretation of available artifacts becomes. Many anthropologists assume that the prehistoric species Homo erectus already knew their own fireplaces. As the Homo erectus around before 1.9 million years ago appeared in human history, our ancestors still lived exclusively on the African continent, from which they later conquered the rest of the world in two “waves of emigration”.

Certainly Homo erectus could not create fire willingly. Instead, he had to rely on that, for example lightning started a fire. Then he could hope to take a flame for his own fireplace and keep it alive for as long as possible. We know from Africa today that natural fires can easily occur in dry savannah landscapes.

While the use of fire 1.9 million years ago is very uncertain, the researchers succeeded in the South African Wonderwerk Cave possibly proof of fire pits. More than a million years ago - so the interpretation of the finds - prehistoric humans roasted plants and animals there. The closer we get to the present, the more human fireplaces there are. A 790,000 year old site in today's Israel is considered scientifically proven. He also documents that groups of prehistoric humans were already about to leave Africa to colonize Asia and Europe.

Why fire?

Fire brought numerous benefits to our ancestors that far exceeded the dangers involved. Fire was an elixir of life, not death.

  • It was the fire that did it Meat from hunted animals digestible. In contrast, humans can only digest raw meat in small quantities. The fire generally improved the food situation of mankind. Today we know from dentures that Homo erectus was a devourer of everything.
  • Meat provides a higher energy density than pure plant food. One scientific theory has it that that evolutionary brain growth only became possible through this energy boost. The energy-sapping cerebrum is a luxury that requires “good” nutrition.
  • Roasted and cooked meat is not only easier to digest, it also contains significantly fewer germs and parasites than raw meat. It also has a longer shelf life. Those who fry live healthier and longer when in doubt.
  • A campfire keeps hungry animals away. Primitive humans have always shared their habitat with large predators such as lions and saber-toothed cats, who viewed humans as prey.
  • Not just in front of uninvited visitors, but also protects against the cold a campfire. In Africa it can get really cool at night. An even more important advantage can be seen in the expansion of human settlement into cooler climates. Settling East Asia and Europe would have been much more difficult without the warming fire.
  • A fire can too communicative aspects to have. Different groups of people could possibly find each other through burning or smoking fires in the vastness of the country.
  • In the (much later) Neolithic Age, people believed to have fire for targeted clearing used. So they could expand their arable land.

Make a fire

For perhaps a million years, early humans relied on nature to play fire into their hands. When exactly people learned to make fire by hand is just as uncertain as the first time they were used in Africa. What is certain, however, is that this new skill is a kind technical revolution that made people a lot more independent of nature. You could finally start a fire almost anywhere at any time you wanted. And they could put out a campfire, which can also be a source of danger, without hesitation.

The oldest secured evidence of a Stone Age "lighter" comes from Germany: The minerals sulfur pyrites (pyrite) and flint were found in the Vogelherd cave in Württemberg. 32,000 years ago, Stone Age people struck these two stones against each other, creating sparks which in turn set straw or other fuel on fire. Scientifically speaking, this was the classic method used by primitive men in many parts of the world to ignite their fires. A truly epoch-making invention: punch lighters based on a similar principle are still in use today.

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