Control of Fire



One of the greatest steps in the evolution of homo sapiens is the control of fire. Evidence of the regular use of fire can be found between 100 000 and 50 000 years ago, while older findings illustrate its use a million years ago or more. Today, civilization understands and commands far more impressive capabilities of its force. The ability to cook food, gain warmth and repel predators greatly advanced the survival capability of the homo genus.

Cooked food destroyed parasites which could lead to illness and broadened our dietary range to include meat and plants that are poisonous when uncooked. The warmth provided by the fire increased our distribution range into colder regions previously inaccessible. Many technological advances, such as stronger weapons, would not have been possible without the aid of fire. The gathering around a fire in social settings advanced our linguistic and social skills, while also improving our philosophical outlooks.

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In the myth of Prometheus providing fire to humanity, a grand punishment followed. However, it is this fire that is credited with much of the progress toward civilisation. By mastering fire our capability as a species increased significantly.

It allowed us the ability to cook and consume a larger variety of foods, such as meat, roots, tubers, mature leaves, stems and more that were previously not an option. The act of cooking destroys potential parasites in the meat, lowering the risk of disease, while also neutralising the poisons found in a variety of plants we consume. This led to physiological changes in our digestion and tooth shape.

The use of fire permitted us to move to colder climates with more ease, which increased our distribution potential. It also provided light at night, which affected our natural circadian rhythms and waking hours. This resulted in homo sapiens being some of the longest waking mammal species at an average of 16 hours a day, compared to an average of half that in other mammals. This is why homo sapien vision in low light conditions are generally better than most diurnal animals.

The technological ramifications of the control of fire are evident. Tool and weapon craft improved in a variety of ways, from hardening wood for stronger spears and utilising natural tree gums as a glue, to the refining of rock shards and metals. The baking of clay or creation of ceramic statues and pottery can be seen dating back 20 000 years. As time continued, our technological advances fueled by fires only advanced.

The fire also played the role in social development as the heart of a group or community. Hence the word 'hearth'. Evidence suggests that much of the night time was spent around a fire conversing in a social setting. This refined our social outlooks and understanding within a community. It is also believed to have expanded our linguistic skills to encompass a larger vocabulary and refined structure, which led to the advanced development of linguistic centres in the brain. This, along with the innate hypnotic effect of fire is credited with advanced philosophical and religious thinking.

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