There’s a great story by Guy Gugliotta in this morning’s Washington Post about the discovery of controlled fire 790,000 years ago at a campsite on the banks of the Jordan River by a team from Hebrew University.
Regardless of researchers’ differences about who captured fire, or when, there is little argument that being able to control and use it marked a huge milestone in human evolution. Besides encouraging migration, fire also changed the human diet by making meat more palatable and vegetables softer and easier to eat. Humans grew larger and stronger.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, fire enabled human ancestors to fend off marauders and feel comfortable and safe at night. Control of fire, said Harris and others, was a key innovation in helping transform humans from prey to predators.