The Invention of Fire

The ancient Greeks tell us that the brave-slash-foolhardy titan, Prometheus, gave humanity fire, but it turns out that may not be the way it really happened.

FireEarth didn’t know fire until it had enough oxygen for fire to exist. So the first fossil records of fire come from a time after there was land-based flora producing oxygen as waste. That was approximately 470 million years ago, during the Middle Ordovician Period, well before there were humans for gods to talk to and coerce burnt offerings from.

Archeological finds from ages and eras ago tell us that our extremely distant forbears may have used controlled fire as a tool as early as 1.6 million years ago. There is some controversy regarding this date, however, because direct evidence does not appear until 300,000-400,000 years ago. As they will, scientists quibble over the 1.2 million-year discrepancy.

About 200,000 years ago, the use of controlled fire became widespread and 20,000-40,000 years ago saw the introduction of ovens. The rest, as they say, is history.


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