Fire discovered in 400,000 BCE- innovation par excellence

Creativity has no boundaries. It doesn’t belong to any age, period, gender, race or ethnicity. Great inventions series explores some of the great historic events which brought about a paradigm shift in the lives and behaviours of the human race. This blog discusses one of the first, and probably the most important (I reiterate- probably the most important) of such path breaking inventions.

The controlled use of Fire was an invention in the early Stone Age, which completely changed the course of human lives. Some of the earliest evidences date this back to hundreds of thousands of years ago. It’s not exactly certain when fire was first used by humans, but most researchers put it somewhere between 200,000 and 600,000 years ago.

An interesting and creative video on the same (Credit: Marcelo Leocaldi Coutinho)

Fire is regarded as one of the greatest inventions as it fuelled creativity among Human beings which later led to the evolution of Human Beings to become more civilized and sophisticated creatures. Controlled use of fire enabled cooking of food. Later, when torches and lanterns were created, it brought light into the darkness, and extended the time that mankind could use working, creating and inventing new things. Man tamed fire to use it constructively for various day to day activities.

Researchers however believe that the technique of controlled fire was developed much earlier than is officially mentioned in most of the traditional researches. The oldest undisputable evidence, found at Israel’s Qesem Cave, dates back 300,000 to 400,000 years, associating the earliest control of fire with Homo sapiens and Neanderthals. Now, however, an international team of archaeologists has unearthed what appears to be traces of campfires that sputtered 1 million years ago. Consisting of charred animal bones and plant remains, the evidence hails from South Africa’s Wonderwerk Cave, a site of human and early hominin habitation for over 2 million years.

Picture below of an excavation site at South Africa’s Wonderwerk Cave, where possible evidence of early fire control has been found. (Credit: M. Chazan)

wondererk-cave- Fire's existence

Fire led to evolution or in a sense helped with the evolution process of human beings. Evidences suggest that even Homo Erectus used fire in many ways and some form of Homo creatures used it even 1.7 million years ago.

An important change in the behaviour of humans was brought about by the control of fire and its accompanying light. Activity was no longer restricted to the daylight hours. In addition, some mammals and biting insects avoid fire and smoke. Fire also led to improved nutrition from cooked proteins. The teeth of Homo erectus over time showed gradual shrinking, suggesting that later members of the species converted from eating crunchier foods such as crisp root vegetables to softer foods such as meat and various cooked foods. The evidence of cooking of meat comes from burned and blackened animal bones found at various archaeological sites.


Picture above shows a reconstruction of Homo erectus, the earliest human species that is known to have controlled fire (reconstruction shown in Westfälisches Landesmuseum, Herne, Germany, in a 2006 exhibition)

Cooking meat may have acted as a form of “pre-digestion”, allowing less food energy intake to be spent on digesting the tougher proteins such as collagen. The digestive tract shrank, allowing more energy to be given to the growing brain of Homo erectus. If they ate only raw, unprocessed food, humans would need to eat for 9.3 hours per day in order to fuel their brains, which use about twice as much resting energy by percentage as other primates.

Thus Fire was as important as food itself to fuel our brain to indulge in more creative and innovative activities.

So, now we know why it is a compliment to say that ‘you have got fire within you’. I agree and I must mention that each one of us has fire within us which must never be allowed to extinguish.

We just need to tame it to evolve!!!!

Related article- Discovery of Fire

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