Did tales told over fires aid our social and cultural evolution?
After human ancestors controlled fire 400,000 to 1 million years ago, flames not only let them cook food and fend off predators, but also extended their day.
A University of Utah study of Africa’s Kalahari Bushmen suggests that stories told over firelight helped human culture and thought evolve by reinforcing social traditions, promoting harmony and equality, and sparking the imagination to envision a broad sense of community, both with distant people and the spirit world.
Researchers previously studied how cooking affected diets and anatomy, but “little is known about how important the extended day was for igniting the embers of culture and society,” anthropology professor Polly Wiessner writes in a study published online today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Read more.