Fire-maker Man in Europe

Old woman Homo ignis antecessor / Homo antecesor / Homo erectus one million years ago in Spain

The thing with going to a new continent was that all the caves were free, the hunting was there for the taking and the rivers full of fish. You didn’t have trouble with the neighbours or have to fight with other tribes for territory like in the tropics, but it was the weather: rain, wind and sometimes snow.

Many didn’t make it through the winter, some went southwards and never came back, but others decided to dress like animals. Fur is what we need they said, and they started to keep the animal hides to make capes out of them and bedclothes. Well, capes and bedclothes was the same thing. But the big discussion always was, fur on the inside or fur on the outside? Now if you were going to imitate the animal you’d put the fur on the outside, but then again it’s more cosy on the inside.

There were these new-comer cave men to the valley who got into a ‘discussion’ with the people who know what to do with a cape. They nearly came to blows – one got out a club and was about to hit the other one over the head with it, but it was sorted when he turned his cape inside out, or outside in, I’m not sure which. Then he imitated the noise of a bull and scarpered while the others were looking for their spears.

That’s only one of the things which happened.

Fire-maker Man

Homo ignis (Homo erectus) in Asia 1.8 million years ago

Discovery of fire was a game-changer. Fires were lit to drive animals towards hunters waiting with spears. The trees burned down and the good thing about that was that you got regrowth of plants that attracted grazing animals so you could hunt them as well. The landscape was radically changed and you could look out over a plain for the first time. Of course, not everybody liked it and some got upset that the balsa trees they made rafts out of had burned down as well. All this burning of trees was controversial even 1.8 million years ago.

People moved from the forests to the plains to set up camp and hunt herd animals. You had to run fast to have any chance of killing this type of animal, and then walk for miles with parts of the animal over your shoulders back to camp. But it paid off. No more of that bringing a small lizard back to eat – it was now proper game and enough for the whole group to eat and be satisfied.

At camp the camp fire would already be lit to keep tigers and other wild beasts away from the encampment of shelters. Then when the hunters returned, everyone would gather round and choose their piece of meat and barbeque it on a stick. Some used stones to crack open marrow bones so the children could feed on the soft marrow inside.

Beside the fire were happy times. When all had had their fill, the rhythm started up and men and women danced around the fire.

Sticks have been used for barbecuing since time immemorial (please ignore the iron pots). I went to this BBQ in Chiloe Chile in 1996