Thursday, March 5, 2015

Why The Discovery Of FIRE Was Good For Humans

To say this winter has been cold is a gross understatement: it has been bitterly cold.

Branches covered in ice


Branches full of snow resembling ice cream cones


View of a frozen pond

While it could be worse, it is bad enough to make me wish I was on some beautiful island in the Caribbean. Yes, in the Caribbean where the sun is warm, the views are gorgeous, the beaches are beautiful, and the breeze is not from the North Pole.

A person walking on the snow after a snowstorm

All of this cold weather has me thinking about the human race from its beginning and has made me realize what a huge milestone it was in our development when primates discovered FIRE. I don't mean fire resulting from lighting but rather our ability to make FIRE.

We take for granted that fire has allowed the human race to live in areas where we probably would not survive without its benefits: heat and warmth. Winter is surely more bearable when we have shelter and a warm home.

Landscape view of trees full of snow after a snowstorm


View of wild grass covered in snow


5 Benefits resulting from the Discovery of FIRE;

  • Heat and Warmth

Our ancestors could now expand their territory and move on to other, less weather-friendly areas.

  • Socializing

Gathering around a fire helped pre-humans develop social skills, communication skills, and mental skills. Even today, notice how much friendlier a group gets when gathered around a fire. Recently we had a neighborhood party and the fire pit we built was the most popular spot with people sharing stories, comments, and singing.

  • Safety

Our ancestors were always concerned with being eaten by wild animals especially at night while sleeping. Fire allowed them to scare off predators and so get a better night sleep.

  • Longer Days

Fire brought light after the sun went down, and as humans developed, having a source of light gave them more time to develop tools, to create, to be more productive. Now we are really starting to differentiate from other animals.

  • The Discovery of Cooking!

It has been said this is the biggest benefit from our ability to make FIRE. Cooking is the one thing that allowed primates to become humans. It is the one thing done only by humans in the entire animal kingdom.

Goose on a frozen pond


A man walking two dogs in a snow path

How did the Discovery of FIRE led to COOKING and then to us, humans?

  • Cooking softens our foods

This means our digestive system get the nutrition from the food we eat faster and with less effort. Our ancestors had to spend much of their day grazing for food where their diet was eating raw meats, fruits and berries. This also meant we had more time on our hands since we did not have to spend most of the day looking for food to feed our bodies.

  • Physical body changes

Because our foods were softer and we could get more nutrition faster from it, we no longer needed big guts, nor strong, large jaws. Our bodies started to downsize.

  • Larger Brains

Cooking allowed for our brains to grow. Our brains became larger and more complex allowing us to process and store more information, this helped our ancestors survive and thrive. Cooking allowed us to feed ourselves properly for our growing brain.

      Some interesting facts about our brains:
  1. Our brain is 2% of our body mass but requires 20% of the nutrition we take in. 
  2. After birth, human brains continue to grow well into childhood. This is not the case of our closest relative the chimpanzee.
  3. Our brains have more connections between nerve cells allowing us to process more information and quickly. 
  4. The brain is the most complex object known.

  • The Beginning of the Division of Labor

Fire and the development of Cooking have been attributed with the concept of hearth and home in humans. It is possible this is when humans started to pair up for mating, and for the division of household roles.

View of a street and trees in intense fog and snow

Finally

We take for granted the benefits of the discovery of FIRE by our ancestors. I can assure you that on this wintery day, I am forever grateful to be in a nice warm house with a roaring fire in the fireplace.

A fireplace with a roaring fire

My husband has filled the bird feeder and set out extra seed on our porch. Watching the birds frantically feeding, the deer roaming in the backyard, and the fox looking for a meal under much snow, I am reminded of how glad I am to be human. How fortunate we developed a large brain, a mind and our senses to enjoy the beauty around us.

Let us toast to our ancestors, to the cooks in our world and to the discovery of FIRE.

Wishing you all Happy Travels in your Neighborhood.

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