50,000 B.C. | The beginnings of the use of fire in the Stone Age
Our evolution has its origins in Africa, from where primeval humanity spread throughout the northern hemisphere. The discovery and use of fire, as a source of light and heat, played a significant role in this. In fact, there are finds from fireplaces that are already over 1.5 million years old.
Humans couldn’t make fire at first, depending on lightning strikes, forest fires or volcanoes to create it. Solid fireplaces, where it was permanently kept in check, became the source of heat, light and a evening gathering place. The oldest testimonies of such a permanent fireplace were charcoal residues found in the caves of Zhoukoudian in China, where the Peking man maintained a campfire over 500,000 years ago.
The dependency on the sun as exclusive heat and light source is put into perspective. The fire formed the center of the societies. The campfire was the place where stories and cultural transfer to the next generation emerged for a long time. This meaning of the fire stayed until the beginning of the industrial revolution.
Nevertheless, the fire developed differently as an artificial light source in different cultures. The first “mobile lights” were probably simple torches that were pulled out of the fire on the not yet burning side to quickly spend light. Gradually, man learned how fire itself can be made and how the simple torches could become longer-lived sources of light. Wooden torches soaked in resin, the so-called pine chips, were the first lights that lasted for about half an hour. Until the Middle Ages, this was an important source of light in human homes and mines. But since the fuel and material were one, they were short-lived.