I would like to go over the history of burning behavior so that everyone can see why it’s so primitive and why much of it is so unnecessary. Also to make a point that burning behavior has changed in many ways over the years to become better behavior sometimes and worse at others.
We Humans evolved from Hominids in and around the Rift Valley in Africa. Their precursors were little hamster like creatures. The hominids were all little upright primates about 4 feet tall. And even then we were engaged in BB because we eat. Eating involves oxidation, that is we inhale air, and eat food. Our Bodies convert that oxygen and food to energy and heat, so we have been little burners since the beginning. Fire is nothing but the rapid oxidation of combustible materials. So we literally burn calaroies. The hominids had several advantages over their domain that eventually led them to evolve into us, modern humans. They were smart, they could see over the savanna grasses. Only birds, really large mammals, and tree dwellers could really “see far”. They used simple wooden tools principally bowels, flat boards and sharp sticks. This was roughly 2-4 million years ago. They were also extremely agile and hunted in groups, behaviors held over from their days living in trees.
(Today all Light Houses in the U.S. are solar powered)
I imagine that early on Hominids were real dangerous because nothing would have been afraid of them. I mean they would not have presented a profile that any beast would associate with danger. By hunting I must add, not what is conjured as a hunter today. Hunting for fruits and nuts and roots. What we now call gathering. But also hunting for grubs, ants, small fish, and whatever else they put in their mouths and seemed OK. I am sure they daily watched other animals eat each other as well. With their sharp sticks I am sure they thought about that and tried it. But uncooked meat is very difficult to digest and contains massive amounts of pathogens. So I am sure that those experiments ended in death. For those that lived in a fish infested environment, I am sure that they experimented with drying the fish (using the sun to “cook”) and eventually they tried that on animal parts. Still drying only gets you so far as does salting things to preserve them.
(During the 1970’s and 80’s Father Verspieren preached the Solar Gospel to pump water in the Third World)
The Hominids and the early Humans would have seen fire too. Fires in the Savanna are real common. Lightening strikes and spontaneous combustion would have burned large area of grasslands every year. Animals would have been burned in those fires and the early folks would have tried to eat them. Cooked meat tastes real good because of the caramelized fats. That probably motivated them to try to “capture” fire by putting rocks around something left burning on the edge of a fire (the first fire circles). Once the fire was “trapped” they feed that fire with combustibles from around the area. NOW those lucky hominids had something REAL valuable. I am sure the word spread (dare I say) like wild fire throughout the tribes. The first controlled tribal fires are thought to have occurred around 1,400.000 years ago. Unfortunately fire and nomadic lifestyles lie in conflict. Unless you know how to independently start one they can be hard to transport. While farming is usually attributed to the Settling of the Human family into villages. My bet is that the first villages actually resulted from tribal people not wanting to abandon the fires that they had tended and used for many wonderful things.
(Solar Panels cover an apartment building in Bremensm Germany)
Also, I’ll bet the quest for fire starting devices was that era’s technology race. What we do know is that by the time of the Neanderthals they were brilliant firestarters. They used flint and rock strikers or wood bow starters or water soaked grass chaf (in the hotter climates) to start fires and they transported fire with them in portable ember chambers. Surely by the time “modern humans” populated the North and South Americas 20,000 year ago from what is now France and Russia fire or Burning Behavior was an intricate part of human life. But all ready they were doing bad things with it. Tribes used purposely-set fires to attack other tribes and they used fire to clear forests for farming areas. Even more ominously for us today they used fire to burn people alive as sacrifices to their gods and as punishment for their rivals. Still there were only 50 or 60 million people on the planet at that point. How much harm could they do?
(for those of you who are wondering where I am going with this? Patience. I cover like 4 million years in basically 2 pages! I hope to cover 20,000 more years in 2 more posts and then talk about what I really wanted to talk about which Isaac Asimov and Captain Kirk on Star Trek – really…)