THE UNFOLDING JOURNEY is a new blog written in association with Legacy Genealogy.

This blog is a blend of disciplines that reveal the rich texture of culture and history that surrounded your ancestors' lives, as well as your own. We will take you beyond just the names, dates, and places to give you the "back story" for the reasons your ancestors thought what they thought and did what they did. We invite you to also visit us at the Legacy Genealogy facebook page at http://facebook.com/legacygenealogy

Sunday, October 21, 2012


The control of fire is probably the most important discovery made, and skill learned, in the history of human beings.

Fire has certainly been known of for almost 800,000 years ago. Lightning strikes were the most commonly observed event causing fire to result. Mankind’s first use of fire may have started when someone bravely lifted a burning branch from a tree that had been struck by lightning. This is generally called the “opportunistic” use of fire; using it when and where natural forces ignited flammable substances. Fire was probably used in this way for about 400,000 years before it was brought under control.

The controlled use of fire was an invention of the Early Stone Age. The earliest evidence of its use was in Israel where charred wood and seeds were recovered from a site dated about 750,000 years ago. This has been met with skepticism in recent years as being too early. It is suspected to be only opportunistic use. The examination of sites in Europe and China indicate that habitual use of fire more likely began about 300,000 or 400,000 years ago.

How early man learned to control fire is still largely unknown. Some ancient religions profess that man was given fire by God directly or through rebellious angels and demigods. Greek mythology says that Prometheus stole fire from Zeus, the king of the Gods, and gave it to man to make him competitive with the animals; who were endowed with more strength and speed. For his transgressions, Prometheus paid a high price.

The first deliberately constructed fireplaces/hearths represent the first proof that fire was under control. They can be found in South Africa and Israel dating between 200,000 and 125,000 years ago.

So, what effect did the controlled use of fire have on the evolution of mankind?

The influence of fire on the PHYSICAL evolution of the human species has been a heated controversy for years. Some scientists believe that cooked food provided the human body with more calories and therefore more energy. This allowed a shift of body resources away from digestion (causing the digestive system to shrink in size) and toward the brain, increasing its size and human intelligence as well. They also thought that, because of cooked meat, the human jaw got smaller resulting in fewer and smaller teeth. Other scientists disagree. While they admit that cooked food did contribute to a healthier body, the other physical changes mentioned would have had to occur over a much longer period of time.

There is no controversy about the effect of the controlled use of fire on CULTURAL evolution however.  Fire was used to provide heat, cook plants and animals, burn clay for ceramics, and heat treat stone to make tools. In its portable state, fire was used to bring light after dark in order to extend the work day, clear forests for planting, ward off dangerous animals and insects, and to wage war. The controlled use of fire “ignited” an explosion of things that mankind was able to do. It allowed early cultures and civilizations to develop.

No comments:

Post a Comment