How Was Fire Discovered?

fire-discovered Credit: Matthias Ripp/CC-BY 2.0

Historians do not know for sure just how fire was discovered, but most believe that humans first saw fire after lightning struck a tree during the Lower Paleolithic age. Soon, humans discovered that it was possible to not only use the flame for heat and light, but also to cook food.

Many historians believe that the very first evidence of controlled fire being used by humans was seen during the Lower Paleolithic age at a site known as Gesher Benot Ya'aqov, located in Israel. It was here that researchers found wood and seeds that had been charred. Later it was found that this site was over 790,000 years old.

Not all scientists believe that the Gesher Benot Ya'qov site was the first example of controlled fire. Others believe that the first sign of controlled fire was at Zhoukoudian, which is a Lower Paleolithic site in China dated close to 400,000 years ago. Others believe that the first sign of controlled fire is at Qesem Cave in Israel, which dates back between 200,000 and 400,000 years.

It was not until the Middle Paleolithic age that a hearth was used. A hearth is a simple fireplace that is made from a circle of stones or by simply reusing the same area many times to build a fire. Some hearths are believed to be over 125,000 years old.