Fire was one of our ancient ancestors’ first forays into technology. Controlled burns enabled early hominids to ward off cold, cook and better preserve game. New evidence places fire-making in Europe as early as 800,000 years ago, much earlier than previously thought and closer to scientists’ best estimate for hominids’ first use of fire, about 1 million years ago in Africa.
It’s unclear how early Homo species came to master fire, but it was perhaps an attempt at problem solving — capturing a natural phenomenon and harnessing it for use. That tradition has persisted in human cultures. It thrives today among scientists, especially those engaged in