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Who Tamed Fire First?

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Who Tamed Fire First?

The farther back in time we explore, the more room there seems to be for discrepancy among various theories regarding the history of the earth. One of the many disputed aspects of history concerns the nature of the relationship between humans and the environment. This paper will focus on the debate of the origin of first tamed fire. Was it Homo erectus or Homo sapiens?

The widely accepted big bang theory of evolution "paints Homo erectus as no more than a smart ape," (McCrone, New Scientist, May 20, 2000, 31) with a, "15-minute culture," (McCrone, 34) incapable of manipulating his surrounding environment. Though even if we were to believe he was physically capable of accomplishing this act, McCrone explains, "controlling fire simply seemed too intellectually sophisticated a feat for this creature," who were, "primitive toolmakers, and showed no signs of symbolic thinking over the next million or more years of their existence," (McCrone, 31). Under this theory, any remains of fires from his time are written off as bush fires, lightning strikes, and other such naturally induced occurrences. It is not until Homo sapiens comes along that humans are considered to have begun to "master" their environment.

A recent, more scientifically based analysis of ancient Chinese fires supports this same stance that Homo erectus was not the first to tame fire. The geological analysis took place at the Zhoukoudian site in China, where an opposing theory marks the first controlled fire at 500,000 years ago by Homo erectus' hands, (Wuethrich, Science Magazine, July 10, 1998). Though they confirmed recovering burnt bones from the site, there was no solid evidence to suggest the controlled use of fire, such as hearths,...

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...order in our world. It gives us a past, present and future. Time also offers us a sense of perspective, so that we can make insights and connections, decide what is true and what is false, what is valuable and what is inconsequential. In this regard, the debate over the time and origin of the first tamed fire is an effective illustration of the ways in which time affects our perception of human kind and its relationship with the environment. Which theory of origin we ultimately choose to believe is particularly significant in that it gives insight into the way in which we view ourselves in relation to our past.

Sources Cited:

"Did Homo Erectus Tame Fire First?" Balter, Michael. Science. June 16, 1995.

"Fired Up." McCrone, John. New Scientist, May 20, 2000.

"Geological Analysis Damps Ancient Chinese Fires." Wuethrich, Bernice. Science Magazine, July 10, 1998.
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