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How Fire Changed the World
No one knows for certain how or when people first discovered fire and learned to control it. Nevertheless, this was one discovery that undeniably changed the world.
Experts believe it was more than 400 000 years ago that an early human noticed lightning hitting a tree and setting it on fire. Or perhaps someone rubbed two rocks together and the sparks that flew out caused the grass to start burning.
On the Move
Once people could warm themselves around fires, they could move to cooler climates. They also gradually lost their thick, heavy body hair, because they no longer needed it—fires could keep them warm.
Less body hair meant people could hunt in the hottest part of the day without overheating. This was an advantage because that is the time when furry animals sleep and so are easier to catch.
All Together Now
Thanks to the light that fire provided, people could stay up later than they used to. That gave them time to make tools, clothing, and other necessities. They also had time to tell stories and bond with each other.
Before fire was discovered, people slept high in trees. The warmth of the fire drew them around it, and they began to sleep in small groups huddled around the fire. This led to relationships with the other families and meant the people had to learn to tolerate each other.
Experts also do not know when someone accidentally dropped some meat in a fire, then ate it. Perhaps this long-ago person was curious and placed the meat in the blaze on purpose. The result was people cooking additional types of foods.
Cooking transformed our ancestors’ bodies. People’s digestive tracts began to shrink because cooked food is easier to process than raw food. Cooked food is softer, so people’s teeth became smaller. People became taller and bigger because they were getting more nutrients. Brains also got bigger and people began living longer.
People began to find more and more ways to use fire. Some artists used charred sticks (charcoal) to draw—some of the artwork they created on cave walls still exists. Potters discovered their clay pots became stronger when put in a fire to bake. Others used fire to melt metal and make jewellery, decorations, tools, and weapons.
Some farmers still use fire to burn fields and remove grasses so they can plant crops. Long ago, people also discovered that when they used fire to boil water, steam was produced. Beginning in the late 1700s, that steam was used to power steam engines, and people were soon building steamships and steam trains to get around.
Fire was definitely one hot discovery!
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1. Where did people sleep before fire was discovered?CorrectIncorrect
2. The wheel was invented about 5500 years ago. List some of the ways the wheel has changed our lives and is used today.
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3. Cooked food was more difficult for the human body to process than raw food.CorrectIncorrect
4. How did the discovery of fire protect people from insects and wild animals?CorrectIncorrect
5. Fill in the blank using information from the text.
Once people could warm themselves around fires, they could move to .