Around 1.5 Million years ago, in Kenya, Africa two sites at Koobi Fora show evidence of control of fire aswell as other sites at a little later dates, such as Chesowanja and Olorgesailie, show potential evidence that fire was utilized by early humans although this is not evidence of cooked food.

1 Million Years Ago – Wonderwerk Cave (South Africa), found evidence of controlled use of several fires likely by Homo erectus our human ancestors, including use of fire in cooking of plants and animals. Also found were stone tools all showing thoughtful intentionality. It is possible that fire could have played a part in early superstitionism, then supernaturalism and following through into religion as well as myths.

770,000 Years Ago – Homo erectus and Homo erectus pekinensis (Peking Man) left evidence which helps establishes they could control and use fire. We need to stop thinking that all advancement waited until modern humans came along. We likely learned a few things from the beings before us, just as it is not unthinkable that the beings before us likely learned a few things from the beings before them.

600,000 Years Ago – Fire can be said to have a reasonably wide use and possibly being sacralized to some extent then or sometime later, but we do know at some point fire was attached to sacredness. At what point in humanoid history did these sacred rituals fully appear? What dreams were dreamed, what stories told around the fire? It is likely fire was one of the earliest superstitionized things, later becoming a supernaturalized symbols, them lasting as a sacradized part of religious iconography.

400,000 Years Ago – Neanderthals were commonly using fire. The most probable ignition source was flint and iron pyrite (fool’s gold).

300,000 Years Ago – Qesem Cave (Israel), found prehistoric hearth full of ash and charred bone. This may be a hint that early humans sat around fires before Homo sapiens evolved in Africa. The finds could shed light on a turning point in the development of culture.

After human ancestors controlled fire 1.5 million to 300,000 years ago and beyond, flames not only let them cook food and fend off predators, but also extended their day and added to the community by how a fire in the middle of the darkness mellows and also excites people. Thus, we may rightly ponder how much did fireside tales aid to the socio-cultural-religious transformations or evolution. In the dark under flickering lights both above and below, was the scene a mix of wonder, fear, and mystery that superstition was expanded and religion further imagined?

It would seem that superstition was expanded and religion further imagined because both heavenly lights and flickering fire have been sacralized. Which does seem to be some what supported by a researcher who spent 40 years studding African Bushmen who gathered evidence of the importance of gathering around a nighttime campfire might be a universally applicable time for bonding, social information, many shared emotions, in fireside tales if we can ascertain a correlation that our prehistoric ancestors likely lived in a similar way to how the Bushmen current do. Although, we cannot directly peer into the past, or fully know the past from the indigenous Bushmen, these people do live in a way that our ancient ancestors lived for around 99% of our evolution.

Therefore, we can somewhat draw some reasonable parallels such as how daytime conversations focused mainly on social relationships with only a small percentage of stories, whereas the evening conversations around campfires centered on storytelling, especially the adding of stories about the spirit world adding possible credence to the thinking that nighttime and its darkness full of fear and or wonder in the flickering lights of fireside allows for more mystical thinking and the tales such an environment can produce which could have aided in socio-cultural-religious transformations or evolution.

The importance of water and fire can be a set of hidden factors to human evolution and socio-cultural-religious transformations and involved in many religion themes; lingering primitive animism still seen in current religions. Fire as sacred or magic can be seen in consuming fire, volcanos/lightning as gods power/vengeance, holy fire, fire as a means of transformation or magical purification or just a magical being itself as well as used in fire worship/worshiping the sun or punishment (hell: lake of  fire which could be seen as mixing fire and water if only symbolically) used in ceremonies like bonfires, eternal flames, or sacred candles/incense/lights/lamps are in one form or another incorporated in many faiths such as judaism, christianity, islam, hinduism, buddhism, sikhism, bahaism, shintoism, taoism, etc.

All this worship of fire/sun are hardly special certain primates worship thunderstorms, others fire or sunrises. We have forgotten how nature worship, animistic superstitionism, or superstitionism is presented in today’s religion. The mega religions now think they are removed from animistic superstitionism, which they have not. Their rituals, beliefs, and prayers have a connection to animism nature worship but are more hidden or stylized, such as burning candles which is worshipping fire.

Aren’t you worried that you are too obsessed with god and religion Damien? I am not obsessed with god(s) or religion(s) any more than a firefighter would be about fires. I wish to put them out, as they burn people.

By Damien Marie AtHope

 

References

Wikipedia (2015). Homo erectus. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homo_erectus#Homo_erectus_georgicus

Choi, C. (2012). Hot find! Humans used fire 1 million years ago. Retrieved from http://m.livescience.com/19425-earliest-human-fire.html

Archaeology Magazine (2014). “Peking Man” could use fire. Retrieved from http://www.archaeology.org/news/1898-140312-peking-man-fire

Archaeology News Network (2015). China finds new evidence for use of fire by ‘Peking Man’. Retrieved from http://archaeologynewsnetwork.blogspot.com/2015/07/china-finds-new-evidence-for-use-of.html#.VbbO-_lViko

Hamaker, P. (2011). Neanderthals used fire 400,000 years ago (Photos). Retrieved from http://www.examiner.com/article/neanderthals-used-fire-400-000-years-ago

Gannon, M. (2014). 300,000-year-old caveman ‘campfire’ found in Israel. Retrieved from http://www.livescience.com/42861-early-human-campfire-found-israel.html

Wiessner, P. (2014). Did fireside tales aid social and cultural evolution? Retrieved from http://www.archaeology.org/news/2537-140923-kung-bushmen-fireside-tales

Science Daily (2014). Firelight talk of the Kalahari Bushmen: Did tales told over fires aid our social and cultural evolution? Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140922152809.htm

Science Daily (2014). Groundwater tied to human evolution. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140910152516.htm

Wikipedia (2015). Fire worship. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fire_worship

Daily Mail (2014). Sun-worshipping baboons rise early to catch the African sunrise – and race each other to the top for the best spots. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2583322/Monkey-magic-Playful-baboons-scramble-mountain-enjoy-spectacular-sunrise.html