History of Fire Making

Fire is one of the most crucial discoveries in human history. It has played a significant role in shaping human civilization and has been used for various purposes, such as cooking food, providing warmth, and warding off wild animals. The history of fire-making can be traced back to the early Stone Age, around 1.7 million years ago.

The early humans discovered fire by accident when lightning struck a tree, causing it to catch fire. They soon realized the potential benefits of fire and started using it for their daily activities. Initially, they used natural sources of fire, such as lightning strikes, volcanic eruptions, and wildfires.

However, as human intelligence and tool-making skills evolved, they started creating fire themselves. The earliest method of fire-making was the friction method, where two sticks were rubbed together to create heat and ignite a piece of tinder. This technique was time-consuming and required a lot of effort.

Around 10,000 years ago, humans began using a fire drill to make fire. The fire drill consisted of a wooden spindle and a fireboard. The spindle was rotated rapidly between the palms of the hand, generating enough friction to ignite the fireboard. This technique was much more efficient than the friction method and was widely used until the invention of matches.

The Chinese are credited with inventing the first matches around 2,000 years ago. These matches were made by dipping a stick in sulfur and then igniting it by striking it against a rough surface. However, these matches were unreliable and hazardous, and it was not until the 19th century that modern matches were invented.

In the 1800s, French chemist Jean Chancel invented the first modern match, which consisted of a wooden splint coated with a mixture of sulfur and potassium chlorate. When struck against a rough surface, the matchhead would ignite and produce a flame. This invention revolutionized fire-making and made it more accessible to people.

Today, fire-making has become easier than ever, with the advent of modern technology such as lighters, stoves, and ovens. However, the history of fire-making is a testament to human ingenuity and innovation, and it remains one of the most significant discoveries in human history.


Fire may be considered as one of the chief agents of human cultural progress. Indeed, no single material trait other than fire could lift man above the level of other animals. In the remote prehistoric past, human being commanded the animal world as he could discover and master fire. In those days, he used to live in the caves and dense forest quite at the mercy of nature. He could then express his supremacy in the animal world by the invention of fire and lithic tools. His physical handicap was thus adjusted. His inventive brain helped him immensely during those days of “intensified struggle for existence.” In the later stages of Mesolithic and Neolithic cultural phases, other inventions and discoveries were subsequently made which pushed the human civilization further.

It was during the early Paleolithic stage, man discovered fire but could not master it. The controlled use of fire towards human benefit came much later, probably during the middle or upper Paleolithic cultural stages.

The tribals of India and abroad, have their indigenous way of fire preservation. They need not have to light fire everyday which they cannot afford. In the case of emergency, they may borrow it from the neighbours. They preserve fire by putting pieces of charcoal or dried bushes upon their hearths. In the early morning, they blow wooden pipes to lit fire in their hearths. They may even push some dried bushes and wooden pieces into the hearths to gain immediate flame.

Methods of Fire Making

There are different methods to produce fire which is being described below:

1. Fire-drill

A universal and fundamental use of wood is in the fire-making. It is widely used as a fire starter around the world. The drills are ordinarily nothing but wooden rods or tubes rotated between the hands or by mechanical means. The ancient Greeks, the Romans, and the Egyptians used to produce fire by this method. The south Indian priests still now try this method to produce fire for sacred performances.

2. Fire-saw

The implement consists of a grooved board lying on the ground and a blunt stick which is pushed back and forth with vigorous pressure until friction-generated heat kindles fire-a method concentrated primarily in Polynesia. In Indonesia, the fire-saw, a variant form, is preferred. In this method, piece of split bamboo is sawed so rapidly that the dust ignites. In Malay, Australia, Philippines, and Burma and in India, this technique of fire-making is performed by the primitives.

3. Bow-drill

The trick of the bow-drill is to wind the bow-string once around the drill, and by holding the top of the drill in a hand socket, the fire-producers saw back and forth with the bow.

4. Pump-drill

A clever refinement of bow-drill finds expression in pump-drill. In Madagascar, it is known as the traditional way of fire-making. The Melanesians and the Polynesians know this art of fire-making.

5. Lenses

If sun rays are allowed to fall on paper or dried grass or on some such objects through a bi-convex lens, fire can be produced. It is practiced by the people of contemporary societies.

6. Fire-piston

The fire-piston is the device for lighting with the heat engendered by the sudden compression of fire. This method of fire-making must have been a by-product of something else, or an accidental invention.

7. Ploughing

It is a variant of ‘fire-saw’. If one pushes a stick to-and-fro on flat piece of wood so as to produce a groove, then heat may be generated which ultimately produces fire.

Besides these, modern safety matches are very common among the peoples, modern and primitive, in the global context. Probably this discovery of matches was made in the 19th century. The chemicals like sulphur and potassium chlorate dipped in sulphuric acid, are allowed to stick at one end a small wooden split, may give rise to flame in friction. Later on, phosphorus replaces the earlier chemicals.

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