Fire Makes Us Human

by Tanner Colley

In our Campfire Origins story, we explored the history of human interaction with fire. While many of us are spending more time at home, understanding the role of fire in human history can help us understand more about ourselves and strengthen our relationships with those around us.

“Society began with the cooking of meat over an open flame.”

Anthony Bourdain

If it weren’t for fire, humans wouldn’t be, well, human. In fact, fire is arguably the most primal human invention, particularly when we first applied fire to food and cooked for the first time. One study shows that the discovery of cooking over an open flame was the catalyst that propelled humans to become smarter. Cooking with flame allowed for more food-energy to be absorbed by the brain by breaking down complex carbohydrates in meat. Over time, the brain size of humans began to expand and we started to make our mark on the world.

The importance of fire goes a little deeper than just physical nourishment.

Fire got us talking

It can be argued that once we brought controlled fire into our homes and created the hearth, civilization began. The hearth was not just a central place for warmth and cooking, the hearth became a place where humans could talk shop for the first time in history. Once we started to gather around the fire, language and communication became more advanced. Gathering around a fire to cook meant we had to work together. We pooled our resources (one person brought this ingredient, the other brought another) in order to make the food needed to survive. Out of that need for survival, our ability to collaborate on a meal meant we were starting to strengthen the bonds of community to propel us forward in history.

The central hearth allowed us to gather together, cook, and tell stories to entertain and educate. By gathering together, we created the support system of home and hearth that helped us survive.

Fire helped to enhance storytelling as well. Research into early cave art shows that fire had a greater purpose than just allowing us to see in the dark. Evidence of early fire pits showed them situated at various points along sequences of cave art. As the storyteller moved along the cave wall, the next fire was lit to reveal the subsequent piece of the story. “Just as a sentence generally describes a single idea,” says one researcher, “the light from a grease lamp would illuminate a single part of a story.”

One researcher has even gone as far as to say that the first school was created around the fire. Just like the early humans, gathering around a fire provides a space for us to get closer to each other through simple conversation.

The Legacy of Fire

The way we use fire has evolved throughout the years. Fire, in some form, heats our homes, fuels our vehicles, cooks our food, but at its heart, we still use fire as a gathering place. Throughout our long history with fire, it has kept us moving and changing, igniting our passion for the outdoors.

Each of us has our own legacy with fire beginning with our earliest memories around it. Fire is part of who we are. Duncan Shaw, a Solo Stove content creator, shares the legacy of his Bonfire as it has evolved over time. Fire’s legacy is imprinted on its surface.

“It’s changes kind of mimic the changes the truck has gone through, constantly evolving,” says Duncan.

Duncan started using his Bonfire in August 2017, traveling through California, Oregon, and Washington. That trip would fuel a larger journey. Here’s a photo he took from Oregon on one of his first nights of the trip.

August 2017, Oregon
Augist 2018, Mexico

“Through 2018, I went on a bunch of trips, and it changed a lot. It’s “patina” is quite interesting. It took a couple of bumps and bruises that year. The coloring has never bothered me, and I have never bothered to attempt to clean it,” says Duncan.

December 2018, Arizona
December 2019, Mexico
January 2020, Southern California

How have the fires you’ve made in your Solo Stove built your fire legacy?