Fire a Potential Motivator of Early Human Migration

on November 1, 2008

ScienceDaily: “Fire out of Africa: A Key to the Migration of Prehistoric Humans” The discovery of how to make fire—was it a turning point in human history?

The scientists aren’t saying anything about Prometheus, the Greek god who, according to ancient myth, gave humans fire. But what they are saying is that the ability to make fire marked a major turning point in human history.

Led by Naama Goren-Inbar of the Institute of Archaeology at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, a team conducted excavations of the archaeological site Gesher Benot Ya’aqov, located in the Hula Valley in northern Israel. According to Goren-Inbar’s findings, the humans who once dwelled there had mastered fire-making ability.

The twist is that Goren-Inbar’s team dates the site to nearly 800,000 years ago—half a million years older than evolutionary anthropologists had previously concluded humans mastered fire.

The Bible gives no specifics over when and how humans “learned” to make fire.

According to team member Nira Alperson-Afil, “Concentrations of burned flint items were found in distinct areas, interpreted as representing the remnants of ancient hearths . . . [and] evidence for fire-use throughout a very long occupational sequence.” This indicates that the humans weren’t merely collecting fire from natural blazes, but rather could make it at will. And because the “hearths” are found throughout all eight “levels of civilization” at the dig site, the team concludes humans were making fire throughout the hundreds of millennia they supposedly lived at Gesher Benot Ya’aqov.

“Domesticated” fires would have given humans a new line of defense against predators, along with providing warmth, light, the ability to cook foods, and the ability to make new types of tools. Alperson-Afil adds, “The powerful tool of fire-making provided ancient humans with confidence, enabling them to leave their early circumscribed surroundings and eventually populate new, unfamiliar environments.”

The Bible gives no specifics over when and how humans “learned” to make fire, though by Genesis 4 Cain and Abel were making sacrifices (whether burned or not, the Bible does not say), and later on in the same chapter we are told that Cain’s descendant Tubal-Cain “forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron”—which obviously would require a heat source, presumably fire.

It’s possible that Adam was created with an innate understanding of fire or even that God Himself instructed Adam in fire-making. Or, since we know Adam and Eve (and their descendants) were fully intelligent (probably even smarter than us), they may have discovered how to make it on their own.

While these archaeologists date Gesher Benot Ya’aqov back almost 800 millennia, those dates are based on presuppositions about everything from human evolution and the development of human culture to radiometric dating. The Bible makes it clear, however, that humans first employed fire no more than 6,000 years ago, probably not long after creation.

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