Control of Fire

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True   Likely   Speculative
Human Uniqueness Compared to "Great Apes": 
Absolute Difference
Human Universality: 
Population Universal (Some Individuals Everywhere)
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The domestication of fire was one of the earliest and most significant cultural developments for humans. It affords illumination in darkness, warmth in cold conditions, protection from predators, and nutritional benefits when used to cook foods. Fire has been used in all known human societies, although a few peoples were reported to have not known how to make fire. Although humans may have adapted in various ways to fire, the making, controlling, and using of fire are cultural. No species outside the hominid line intentionally makes a fire. Evidence for the use of fire dates to 1,500k BP in both Africa and Asia, in association with Homo erectus. Even older evidence, in association with Homo ergaster, dates to 1,900k BP. Stronger evidence, still in association with Homo erectus, is widespread in Eurasia but with a wide range of later dates.


Timing of appearance of the difference in the Hominin Lineage as a defined date or a lineage separation event. The point in time associated with lineage separation events may change in the future as the scientific community agrees upon better time estimates. Lineage separation events are defined in 2017 as:

  • the Last Common Ancestor (LCA) of humans and old world monkeys was 25,000 - 30,000 thousand (25 - 30 million) years ago
  • the Last Common Ancestor (LCA) of humans and chimpanzees was 6,000 - 8,000 thousand (6 - 8 million) years ago
  • the emergence of the genus Homo was 2,000 thousand (2 million) years ago
  • the Last Common Ancestor (LCA) of humans and neanderthals was 500 thousand years ago
  • the common ancestor of modern humans was 100 - 300 thousand years ago

Possible Appearance: 
1,500 thousand years ago
Probable Appearance: 
300 thousand years ago
Definite Appearance: 
150 thousand years ago
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Referenced By:
Topic Certainty
Detoxifying/Removing Antinutrients True
Displaced Reference Speculative
Feasting Speculative
Food Handling Likely
Tool Making True


  1. Cooking in caves: Palaeolithic carbonised plant food remains from Franchthi and Shanidar, Kabukcu, Ceren, Hunt Chris, Hill Evan, Pomeroy Emma, Reynolds Tim, Barker Graeme, and Asouti Eleni , Antiquity, 2022, p.1-17, (2022)
  2. Evidence for the cooking of fish 780,000 years ago at Gesher Benot Ya’aqov, Israel, Zohar, Irit, Alperson-Afil Nira, Goren-Inbar Naama, Prévost Marion, Tütken Thomas, Sisma-Ventura Guy, Hershkovitz Israel, and Najorka Jens , Nature Ecology & Evolution, 2022, Volume 6, Issue 12, p.2016-2028, (2022)
  3. Middle Pleistocene fire use: The first signal of widespread cultural diffusion in human evolution, MacDonald, Katharine, Scherjon Fulco, van Veen Eva, Vaesen Krist, and Roebroeks Wil , Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2021/08/03, Volume 118, Issue 31, p.e2101108118, (2021)
  4. Estimating temperatures of heated Lower Palaeolithic flint artefacts, Agam, Aviad, Azuri Ido, Pinkas Iddo, Gopher Avi, and Natalio Filipe , 2020/10/05, (2020)
  5. Geochemical Evidence for the Control of Fire by Middle Palaeolithic Hominins, Brittingham, Alex, Hren Michael T., Hartman Gideon, Wilkinson Keith N., Mallol Carolina, Gasparyan Boris, and Adler Daniel S. , Scientific Reports, 2019/10/25, Volume 9, Issue 1, p.15368, (2019)
  6. Control of Fire in the Paleolithic: Evaluating the Cooking Hypothesis, Wrangham, Richard , Current Anthropology, 2017/08/01, Volume 58, Issue S16, p.S303 - S313, (2017)
  7. Evidence of Hominin Use and Maintenance of Fire at Zhoukoudian, Gao, Xing, Zhang Shuangquan, Zhang Yue, and Chen Fuyou , Current Anthropology, 2017/08/01, Volume 58, Issue S16, p.S267 - S277, (2017)
  8. Fire for a Reason: Barbecue at Middle Pleistocene Qesem Cave, Israel, Barkai, Ran, Rosell Jordi, Blasco Ruth, and Gopher Avi , Current AnthropologyCurrent Anthropology, 2017/08/01, Volume 58, Issue S16, p.S314 - S328, (2017)
  9. How Did Hominins Adapt to Ice Age Europe without Fire?, Dibble, Harold L., Abodolahzadeh Aylar, Aldeias Vera, Goldberg Paul, McPherron Shannon P., and Sandgathe Dennis M. , Current Anthropology, 2017/08/01, Volume 58, Issue S16, p.S278 - S287, (2017)
  10. Neanderthal Cooking and the Costs of Fire, Henry, Amanda G. , Current Anthropology, 2017/08/01, Volume 58, Issue S16, p.S329 - S336, (2017)
  11. Researching the Nature of Fire at 1.5 Mya on the Site of FxJj20 AB, Koobi Fora, Kenya, Using High-Resolution Spatial Analysis and FTIR Spectrometry, Hlubik, Sarah, Berna Francesco, Feibel Craig, Braun David, and Harris John W. K. , Current Anthropology, 2017/08/01, Volume 58, Issue S16, p.S243 - S257, (2017)
  12. Toward a Long Prehistory of Fire, Chazan, Michael , Current Anthropology, 2017/08/01, Volume 58, Issue S16, p.S351 - S359, (2017)
  13. Combustion at the late Early Pleistocene site of Cueva Negra del Estrecho del Río Quípar (Murcia, Spain), Walker, M.J., Anesin D., Angelucci D.E., Avilés-Fernández A., Berna F., Buitrago-López A.T., Fernández-Jalvo Y., Haber-Uriarte M., López-Jiménez A., López-Martínez M., et al. , Antiquity, 06/2016, Volume 90, Issue 351, p.571 - 589, (2016)
  14. Selection and Use of Manganese Dioxide by Neanderthals., Heyes, Peter J., Anastasakis Konstantinos, de Jong Wiebren, van Hoesel Annelies, Roebroeks Wil, and Soressi Marie , Sci Rep, 2016, Volume 6, p.22159, (2016)
  15. The pyrophilic primate hypothesis., Parker, Christopher H., Keefe Earl R., Herzog Nicole M., O'Connell James F., and Hawkes Kristen , Evol Anthropol, 2016 Mar 4, Volume 25, Issue 2, p.54-63, (2016)
  16. Why humans build fires shaped the same way., Bejan, Adrian , Sci Rep, 2015, Volume 5, p.11270, (2015)
  17. Speculations about the Effects of Fire and Lava Flows on Human Evolution, Medler, Michael , Fire Ecology, 2011, Volume 7, Issue 1, (2011)
  18. Human adaptation to the control of fire, Wrangham, Richard W., and Carmody Rachel , Evolutionary Anthropology, 10/2010, Volume 19, p.187-199, (2010)