Archeologists have various theories about how humans started using fire. While some think that Homo erectus started using fire in Africa, others believe that Neanderthal man independently started using fire in Europe much later.
Most archeologists, however, agree that early man probably started using fire found naturally in forest fires before they discovered how to make fire. Archeologists also agree that early man used fire for warmth, protection, and to cook food. All of these uses helped ensure that they could survive extremely cold weather, be safe from insects and predators, and obtain more carbohydrates.
Fire Used for Protection
When early man learned how to control fire and keep them burning in the fireplaces, they could have a dependable source of warmth in cold weather. Additionally, early man used fire to keep predatory animals at bay, especially at night. Many wild animals were wary of fire and smoke, and this enables early man to sleep at night secure in the knowledge that the predators would not enter the cave if there was a fire lit at its entrance. These fireplaces or hearths were the first form of protection that early man used.
A Daily Task
As early man still did not know how to start a fire, they needed to save a spark or ember at all times. This made the task of maintaining the fire an important part of their duties. Archeologists surmise that in the first communities of hunter-gatherers, the people who stayed back in the cave or shelter probably had the task of keeping the fire alive.
An Improvement on Life
The early fireplaces might have been smoky and difficult to maintain since the fire needed to be sheltered from the wind and rain, but were an important tool in the way early man developed.
Apart from helping to keep predators at bay, the fire was also used to cook food. This was again a great step in saving humans who were now able to obtain greater calories from food without having to spend hours chewing raw food. The eating of cooked food helped provide leisure time that was used to develop the brain in early man. Additionally, the greater calories obtained from cooked food ensured that early man had the required energy for cogitation.
Archeologists thus believe that the discovery of fire and the ability to control it by using fireplaces or hearths were important steps in the development of humans.