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Homo Erectus: Pyro Technology Essay

The Homo erectus lineage consisted of the first human beings that controlled fire, or pyro technology, to sustain life. In this case fire was their lifeline, and without it there may not have been the continuation of human life as we know it. Physical evidence of fire making preserved at early sites of Homo erectus caves proved they were able to contain and control the flames. Origins of fire making are speculated from many hypotheses of archaeologists. Fire making became their lifestyle, and with fire the Homo erectus maintained a stable heat and light source. In early Homo erectus times these beings lived in caves in Southern Africa. In these caves evidence of fire use was discovered and examined by Kenneth Oakley and his colleagues, but the evidence was inconclusive (Clark and Harris 7). Eventually more Homo erectus sites were found and were also searched for possible fire making utilities and products of their fire making tools.

In three sites of eastern and southern Africa, Clark discovered remains of burnt bone of a catfish and charred logs, along with other burned plant materials and rare fire-fractured quartzite (Clark and Harris 7). These discoveries revealed many uses of fire to the Homo erectus. Cleary the burnt bone of catfish shows that Homo erectus gained knowledge of cooking raw meats. Materials left behind such as the charred logs probably indicated their source to keep the fire burning as long as they needed. Fire in human nature has always been a fear and still is, but humans have learned to understand and control fire to their will. In Kenneth Feder’s book “The Past in Perspective an Introduction to Human Prehistory” he stated that “Homo erectus was our first ancestor able to control fire due to the evidence founded at an 800,000 year old site in Gesher Benot Ya ‘aqov, in Israel. Strong evidence has been found there such as burned seeds, wood, and even flint” (110).

The capabilities of having controlled fire drew the existence of the human lineage further down in time. This controlled fire helped human species adapt to new environments with the protection of the warmth of flame and the light it provided. Fire also protected these beings from animals of the wild, keeping them off the food chain with a better chance to survive. Even cooking raw meats became possible through trial and error. “The ability to cook also helps with their digestive tract breaking down food easier with less energy to do so” (Feder 110). The origin of fire making in the Homo erectus time period is truthfully uncertain. It is clear however that fire had been provided either by nature or by they themselves learning how to build up a fire.

Through observation of hitting specific stones together they could have possibly learned fire building this way. Even though there isn’t much evidence of whether or not the Homo erectus could build a fire or not, there are sites showing evidence that suggest they were capable of constructing a fire. In Chesowanja, Kenya there is a site where there were stone artifacts, fossilized faunal remains, and baked clay clasts that were recovered in situ from fine grained clayey silt deposits found outcropping in the Chemoigut Formation (Clark and Harris 12). Even though this evidence is believed to be man-made there is no actual proof that suggests these products were done with man-made fire. Fire making was the difference between Homo habilis and Homo erectus.

The capability of fire making and use completely altered human life and then carved into the human lineage. The Homo erectus had fire to keep them warm from the harsh conditions of the winter and cold climates they would encounter. Eventually the Homo erectus would learn how to use fire for foods and simplistic tool crafting. According to Gascoigne “It will be many millennia before fire is adapted to any purpose other than for warmth and for roasting meat and root vegetables.

But more than 250,000 years ago hunters realize that the sharpened point of a wooden spear can be hardened by charring it in embers”. All the knowledge of fire that the Homo erectus acquired from their lifetime was clearly passed onto all human species that came after themselves. Fire gave the Homo erectus the power needed to control and adapt to new environments. Protection with the use of fire helped the Homo erectus protect themselves from wild animals they encountered. These beings used fire for everyday use, in everything and anything.

The use of fire in the Homo erectus lifetime was essential for their existence. Without fire human life would have been altered indefinitely. Fire is the base of their existence and even ours. Then and now fire has always been here to help us advance not just in technology, but just a way of living. Fire and its many uses completely changed life for the Homo erectus and it not only helped them survive as long as they used it, but it also paved the way for human species in the future. In the end, fire is the basis of technology along with other tools the Homo erectus crafted in their time as well. Fire became the necessity among human life.

Works Cited
Clark, J. D., and J. W.K. Harris. “The African Archaeological Review.” Fire and Its Roles in Early Hominid Lifeways. Springer, 1985. Web. 23 Feb. 2012. Feder, Kenneth L. “The Human Lineage.” The past in Perspective: An Introduction to Human Prehistory. 5th ed. New York: Oxford UP, 2011. 110. Print. Gascoigne, Bamber. “History of Technology.” HistoryWorld. 2001. Web. 23 Feb. 2012. <http://www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/PlainTextHistories.asp?gtrack=pthc>.


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