Help Privacy Policy Disclaimer
  Advanced SearchBrowse


  Towards an understanding of the costs of fire

Henry, A. G., Büdel, T., & Bazin, P.-L. (2018). Towards an understanding of the costs of fire. Quaternary International, 493, 96-105. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2018.06.037.

Item is


show hide
Genre: Journal Article


show Files




Henry, Amanda G.1, 2, Author
Büdel, Thomas2, 3, Author
Bazin, Pierre-Louis4, 5, 6, 7, Author              
1HARVEST Project, Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University, the Netherlands, ou_persistent22              
2Plant Foods in Hominin Dietary Ecology Research Group, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany, ou_persistent22              
3Institute for Infectious Diseases (IFID), University of Bern, Switzerland, ou_persistent22              
4Department Neurophysics (Weiskopf), MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society, ou_2205649              
5Department Neurology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society, Leipzig, DE, ou_634549              
6Spinoza Centre for Neuroimaging, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, ou_persistent22              
7The Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, ou_persistent22              


Free keywords: Fire; Optimal foraging; Cost:benefit ratio; Fuel
 Abstract: The ability to produce fire at will and to maintain it for a long duration is considered one of the major advances in human evolution. The exact process by which hominins first learned to use and to create fire is still hotly debated, with some arguing for a sudden transformative event that was quickly followed by a biological and cultural dependence on fire, such as a reliance on the extra calories saved through cooking food and an external source of heat. Others suggest that the 'domestication' of fire was a long and drawn-out process, with hominins using fire when it was available on the landscape but perhaps not having the ability to produce fire until much later in human history. In this paper we propose a third option, that fire should be considered like other technologies - that is, it certainly comes with benefits but also with costs, and that hominins functioned as optimal foragers who chose to use this tool only when the costs were less than the benefits. The potential benefits of fire have been well-described in other publications. Here we discuss in detail the various kinds of costs associated with fire and how these costs could, and do, structure human fire-use behavior. We then describe a small experiment to 'put some numbers on' the potential costs of fire, by quantifying one of the most expensive costs (fuel collection) and comparing it to one of the most-praised benefits (cooking of food). The results suggest that the costs of fuel collection are very high in less-forested environments, and that excessively large amounts of cooked foods are needed to match the total costs of fuel collection and the act of cooking. Overall, the costs of fire can be quite high and must be considered when proposing models for pre-modern human adoption and regular use of fire technologies.


Language(s): eng - English
 Dates: 2018-06-012018-02-052018-06-222018-06-272018-11-10
 Publication Status: Published in print
 Pages: -
 Publishing info: -
 Table of Contents: -
 Rev. Type: Peer
 Identifiers: DOI: 10.1016/j.quaint.2018.06.037
 Degree: -



Legal Case


Project information

show hide
Project name : -
Grant ID : -
Funding program : -
Funding organization : Max Planck Society
Project name : Plant foods in human evolution: Factors affecting the harvest of nutrients from the floral environment / HARVEST
Grant ID : 677576
Funding program : Horizon 2020
Funding organization : European Commission (EC)

Source 1

Title: Quaternary International
Source Genre: Journal
Publ. Info: Oxford : Pergamon
Pages: - Volume / Issue: 493 Sequence Number: - Start / End Page: 96 - 105 Identifier: ISSN: 1040-6182
CoNE: https://pure.mpg.de/cone/journals/resource/954925588348