When We Tamed Fire

  • Published: 10 April 2019
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    The ability to make and use fire has fundamentally changed the arc of our evolution. The bodies we have today were, in many ways, shaped by that time when we first tamed fire.

    Produced in collaboration with PBS Digital Studios: office-2016.info/user/pbsdigitalstudios

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    Alperson-Afil, N. (2008). Continual fire-making by hominins at Gesher Benot Ya ‘aqov, Israel. Quaternary Science Reviews, 27(17-18), 1733-1739.
    Barkai, R., Rosell, J., Blasco, R., & Gopher, A. (2017). Fire for a reason: Barbecue at middle Pleistocene Qesem cave, Israel. Current Anthropology, 58(S16), S314-S328.
    Berna, F., Goldberg, P., Horwitz, L. K., Brink, J., Holt, S., Bamford, M., & Chazan, M. (2012). Microstratigraphic evidence of in situ fire in the Acheulean strata of Wonderwerk Cave, Northern Cape province, South Africa. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109(20), E1215-E1220.
    Blain, H. A., Agustí, J., Lordkipanidze, D., Rook, L., & Delfino, M. (2014). Paleoclimatic and paleoenvironmental context of the Early Pleistocene hominins from Dmanisi (Georgia, Lesser Caucasus) inferred from the herpetofaunal assemblage. Quaternary science reviews, 105, 136-150.
    Carmody, R. N., & Wrangham, R. W. (2009). The energetic significance of cooking. Journal of Human Evolution, 57(4), 379-391.
    Clark, J. D., & Harris, J. W. (1985). Fire and its roles in early hominid lifeways. African Archaeological Review, 3(1), 3-27.
    Gowlett, J. A. (2016). The discovery of fire by humans: a long and convoluted process. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 371(1696), 20150164.
    Gowlett, J. A., & Wrangham, R. W. (2013). Earliest fire in Africa: towards the convergence of archaeological evidence and the cooking hypothesis. Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa, 48(1), 5-30.
    Hlubik, S., Berna, F., Feibel, C., Braun, D., & Harris, J. W. (2017). Researching the nature of fire at 1.5 Mya on the site of FxJj20 AB, Koobi Fora, Kenya, using high-resolution spatial analysis and FTIR spectrometry. Current Anthropology, 58(S16), S243-S257.
    MacDonald, K. (2017). The use of fire and human distribution. Temperature, 4(2), 153-165.
    Pruetz, J. D., & LaDuke, T. C. (2010). Brief communication: Reaction to fire by savanna chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) at Fongoli, Senegal: Conceptualization of “fire behavior” and the case for a chimpanzee model. American Journal of Physical Anthropology: The Official Publication of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, 141(4), 646-650.
    Roebroeks, W., & Villa, P. (2011). On the earliest evidence for habitual use of fire in Europe. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(13), 5209-5214.
    Zink, K. D., & Lieberman, D. E. (2016). Impact of meat and Lower Palaeolithic food processing techniques on chewing in humans. Nature, 531(7595), 500.
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Comments • 1 365

  • Flávio Viana Gomide
    Flávio Viana Gomide  2 hours back

    Science is hard to do, but it sparks a fire in my heart.

    • David Currie
      David Currie  18 hours back

      How smart was homo erectus?

      • Justin Ceneviva
        Justin Ceneviva  1 days back

        When we started cooking food, we traded gut for brains.

        • denis njoroge
          denis njoroge  1 days back

          That is my country Kenya, I live about 116km away from the place. Thanks for educating us

          • Dario Spirit
            Dario Spirit  1 days back

            When we gamed fire? Because the possibility that extraterrestrials passed it on is not an option? Really?

            • Jay Wordplay
              Jay Wordplay  2 days back

              Make a video on how the ice age affected humanity

              • Marcus Belanger
                Marcus Belanger  2 days back

                The TameFire update officially broke the Earth survival game. From that point forward humans were OP and needed a nerf that never came.

                • Master Monkey
                  Master Monkey  2 days back

                  We? Bro youd be dead in minutes in the wild XD

                  • SUDHIR PATEL
                    SUDHIR PATEL  2 days back

                    Watch the movie: Quest For Fire.
                    Its free on YouTube.

                    • Baba Femzi
                      Baba Femzi  2 days back

                      Hey guys, please be nice to me I’m sad

                      • Zeus Melendrez
                        Zeus Melendrez  3 days back

                        entertain this thought: what if what we know were staged by the so called “archeologist” dun dun dun duuhhhhhnnn 😳😳😳😂😂😂

                        • Shakti Singh
                          Shakti Singh  3 days back

                          Thank you for this great video

                          • Mitch Wilson
                            Mitch Wilson  4 days back

                            It also seems possible that cooking began before we made use of fire. I don't think heating food with fire is required for cooking, although fire is obviously a big part of cooking as most of us know it today.

                          • head crab droid king
                            head crab droid king  6 days back

                            Hank:now let's talk about fire

                            Piromaiaks:I'm interested

                            • Sharp Butt Beads
                              Sharp Butt Beads  1 weeks back

                              @pbs eons and hank. Fermentation, and domestication/symbiotic evolution with dogs/birds/cats, and herbalism

                              • possum440
                                possum440  1 weeks back

                                Hank....can I call you Hank? "We" Haven't tamed fire. Those living beings capable of a thought, saw lava or lightning burning something or some Extraterrestrials at a cookout, took the item that was burning and through trial and error put together what burned and what would not, basically opportunistic fire gatherers, not tamers. Though a person with a bucket of water and a small fire could imply they were able to tame fire, that is still a reach.

                                We "Utilize" fire for various needs, we have not tamed it...why? Well, I have yet to see a Human walk up to a burning building and snap their fingers and put it out and then say "good boy, good little fire!". Nor have I seen a firefighter walk up to a burning tree and with a wave of their hands, put it out.

                                • rent a shill
                                  rent a shill  4 days back

                                  im not english native speaker
                                  but i think you are going too deeply into definition of word
                                  in my mind "to tame a fire" would mean to just control it
                                  you realized oh i put rocks around it and it doesnt spread
                                  i add wood and it burns more
                                  voila you "tamed a fire"

                              • 0bvi0us Plant
                                0bvi0us Plant  2 weeks back

                                Such a dope episode

                                • Alvaro Zendejas
                                  Alvaro Zendejas  2 weeks back

                                  Homonym or Hominid?????

                                  • Vince85
                                    Vince85  2 weeks back

                                    With fire, next came grill meat.

                                    • Lj Vahle
                                      Lj Vahle  2 weeks back

                                      I think Homo Ergaster made the first fire

                                      • yohan beck
                                        yohan beck  2 weeks back

                                        Hi I just found this channel, great stuff I subscribed. Question about the aim assisted hunting-spear the ancestral man used at 10:40. Could you tell me the name of that spear or innovation that led to it?

                                        • Daniel Sterling
                                          Daniel Sterling  6 days back

                                          I believe that is an "atlatl" or some form of it

                                      • Michael Glenn
                                        Michael Glenn  2 weeks back

                                        Yea, but it also lowers the caloric value of the food

                                        • rent a shill
                                          rent a shill  4 days back

                                          @Michael Glenn The total potential calories won't change much, if at all, but cooking allows you to absorb the calories much better. Cooking is one of our biggest evolutionary advantages over our cousins who are stuck eating only raw food. Some of them have to spend 8 hours a day just chewing. Cooking is a big win. Not to mention your corn will taste better and be easier to chew once it's cooked.

                                        • Michael Glenn
                                          Michael Glenn  4 days back

                                          @rent a shill As measured by a bomb calorimeter?

                                        • rent a shill
                                          rent a shill  4 days back

                                          process of cooking meat gelatinizes the collagen protein in meat, making it easier to chew and digest, so cooked meat has more calories than raw

                                      • Plm Mills
                                        Plm Mills  2 weeks back

                                        What do I major in college to be able to study this type of material??

                                        • Mzee Watk
                                          Mzee Watk  2 weeks back

                                          no known homo erectus in australia

                                          • Mzee Watk
                                            Mzee Watk  2 weeks back

                                            Once a nerd, always a nerd. : )

                                            • Christopher-tipstrum Leslie-Stanley

                                              Planet of the apemen? Sounds familar?

                                              • David Thomas
                                                David Thomas  3 weeks back

                                                That Homo Heisenberg was crazy.

                                                • DocIncredible
                                                  DocIncredible  3 weeks back

                                                  One of the things that most annoyed me when reading Tarzan was the many times Tarzan expresses a preference for fresh bloody raw meat straight from the steaming carcass of a kill, and burying what he can't eat to save it for later. For some reason, this was the evolutionary inaccuracy (among many) that bothered me the most. It's like... Tarzan, no. Your gut spent a million years designing itself for the exact opposite of that.

                                                  A lot of the inaccuracies in Tarzan are behavioral. ERB, perhaps like many scientists of his day, believed in some inherent spark of humanity that would manifest itself independent of nurture. Tarzan invented SHAVING for God's sake. But this is probably his most prominent BIOLOGICAL inaccuracy.

                                                  • Jared Dreyer
                                                    Jared Dreyer  4 weeks back

                                                    This played on auto play and I thought I was listening to sci show

                                                    • j k
                                                      j k  4 weeks back

                                                      Thanks, Steve!

                                                      • Nebu Jin
                                                        Nebu Jin  4 weeks back

                                                        "When We Tamed Fire" - Spoiler: We have not yet :P

                                                        • A Ton Of Clay
                                                          A Ton Of Clay  4 weeks back

                                                          Nebu Jin The four hominids lived in harmony until one day, the fire nation attacked.

                                                      • jacob Taves
                                                        jacob Taves  1 months back


                                                        • W180 TSM
                                                          W180 TSM  1 months back

                                                          BIG BRAIN SMALL BRAIN

                                                          • Not My Fault
                                                            Not My Fault  1 months back

                                                            We invent fire a few hundred thousand years ago...
                                                            We accidentally burn for hundreds and thousands of years...
                                                            And we still aren't umm... Immune?

                                                            • Austin Starke
                                                              Austin Starke  1 months back

                                                              This actually marks the Fall of man

                                                              • Linear Wolf
                                                                Linear Wolf  1 months back

                                                                Nah they just like cuddling a lot

                                                                • tom payne
                                                                  tom payne  1 months back


                                                                  • Jeffrey T
                                                                    Jeffrey T  1 months back

                                                                    I think this channel is my favorite on YouTube. Keep up the hard work!!!

                                                                    • Aydın Bolat
                                                                      Aydın Bolat  1 months back

                                                                      i think the effect of fire on hominid brains is a bit execrated. elephants, dolphins and whales have great (actually more complex than ours) brains without fire. fire gives us more time and energy, but bigger brain?

                                                                      • vic owen
                                                                        vic owen  1 months back

                                                                        Carboniferous period please!!

                                                                        • Greer Poplin
                                                                          Greer Poplin  1 months back

                                                                          As species migrated it could have been advantageous to destroy the remains of any fire so no one else knew you had been through there. It seems hard to believe that any hominids survived in areas with winter temperatures without the use of fire.

                                                                          • Christian Piette
                                                                            Christian Piette  1 months back

                                                                            Mushroom theory. But pbs doesn’t want to admit it. Mutations caused by psychoactive ingredients from eating psylobin mushrooms caused it

                                                                            • Jexshot
                                                                              Jexshot  2 months back

                                                                              Maybe the Homo Erectus who made fire was Autistic and he had the urge to rub stick together. Create sound with sticks to scare animals.

                                                                              • deadlyEuphoria420
                                                                                deadlyEuphoria420  2 months back

                                                                                what about the stoned ape theory then?

                                                                                • Francis Lim
                                                                                  Francis Lim  2 months back

                                                                                  Before fire management by humans,we were eating raw foods like all living things and animals,we certainly do not eat raw bloody smelling raw meats,Imagine us killing an animal oozing in blood?its completely turn us off,even after millions of years of evolution,we are designed to eats raw fruits and vegetables,we chew foods and sucks water like all herbivores does,ever heard these ,2 fruits and 5 veggies for health?

                                                                                  • Snake
                                                                                    Snake  2 months back

                                                                                    Next video "When we invented anime"

                                                                                    • veronicats100
                                                                                      veronicats100  2 months back

                                                                                      Nice work! Enjoyed the video, not to mention that it is very informative.

                                                                                      • Barrett
                                                                                        Barrett  2 months back

                                                                                        Thanks Prometheus, you were a head of your time.