Who invented fire?
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Who invented Fire?

African campfire
San men around a campfire

June 2016 - Probably people were all still in Africa when they first began to use fire for cooking, about 800,000 or a million years ago. People had always known about fire, because fires happened naturally when there were lightning strikes or sparks from two rocks hitting together. Probably the first people who made their own fires started them from fires that were already going. Then, because fire was so useful, they experimented until they figured out how to make fires themselves by hitting flints together or by rubbing two sticks together.

Fire was a very early invention, only a little after simple tools like stone choppers, and before clothing.

Making their own fires let people cook their food. Cooked food is easier to digest than raw food, and people can get more energy from it with less work. This extra energy may have been what helped people grow bigger brains than monkeys, and get smarter so they could invent other things.

At the same time, once people needed fires to cook their food, they couldn't just go off alone into the forest - they needed to all sit together around their fire. In the Stone Age, it was too hard to make your own fire. This encouraged people to learn to get along with each other and cooperate instead of fighting, and helped to form organized tribes.

Learn by doing: make a campfire and cook dinner on it
More about fire
Invention of chimneys

Bibliography and further reading about fire:

More African Science
Egyptian Science
Islamic Science
More about fire
Fire as a chemical reaction
Ancient Africa
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
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