It was the invention of fire that gave humanity everything it has. Let me tell you the summarized story of how fire made us rise to the dominant species of the planet.
We started out as hominids that slept in trees because every night predator was a threat to us. We couldn’t see in the dark (we still can’t really). Day or night, if a predator found us, we ran. But fire changed that. It changed everything. When we learned how to create fire…
First, we took advantage of having light at night, and warmth. The warmth of fire made hair less necessary for staying warm. Our hairy bodies would now start to be less hairy.
Then, we realized we could digest meat when we put it in fire first. Meat was easy calories, especially when food got scarce in the winter. We used to always run away when big animals came near us, but now, we were going out trying to find them!
Then, we invented technology, because in order to kill animals for their meat, we couldn’t use our bare hands. At first, we just used big rocks, but then we realized sharp rocks are just as deadly, and easier to carry. So, we learned how to make rocks sharp, to kill animals easier.
Then, as we continued eating meat, our brains got bigger. With bigger brains came greater intelligence. With bigger brains came bigger heads, and bigger heads meant women had to evolve wider hips just to push their babies out. But their hips never got wide enough, because any wider and women wouldn’t be able to walk, and so, pregnancies evolved ‘fourth trimesters,’ that take place outside of the womb.
Then, the smarter we got, the longer we took to fully grow. Because the more time we spend growing, the more knowledge we can have at our disposal.
Then, since we were growing up slower, and babies spend their final phase of fetal development after being born, women had to spend far less time helping men with … pretty much anything. So, women started staying in the village, spending most of their time taking care of the babies that took two decades to fully grow.
Then, with women and children spending nearly all their time in safe areas while the men were out hunting dangerous animals (or fighting other tribes), women and children became a lot like each other in the way they think. Women became more emotional, more physically and mentally fragile, and even far less inclined to take any risks. This is where villages came from – places where women can stay and spend all the excess time it takes kids to grow.
And thus, society was born.
I believe the ability to create fire came before humans diverged from other hominids. I think our other close cousins, like Neanderthals and Denisovans, and probably others, also knew how to use fire, but we outlived them all because of our strict gender roles, with women and children staying in the village nearly at all times while only men ventured out. Our children were able to safely take extra years fully growing, to keep up with our expanding skulls, and thus they grew up smarter than our other hominid relatives, and thus were able to outperform them in everything … once they finally grew up.
And it was all thanks to fire. We didn’t invent it, we just learned how to use it. Fire is the original technology, not the wheel, and it will always be the perfect blend of nature and technology. It is natural, but it is also something we can summon whenever we want and use in a large variety of ways.