Upright Man learned to make fire Illustration

Early Humans for Kids
Homo Erectus "Upright Man"
1,600,000 BCE to about 300,000 BCE


Approximately one million years ago, early humans started to leave Africa and spread to other continents.  This was during one or more of the Ice Ages.  With the sea level lowered, early humans were able to cross land bridges between continents.  They crossed into these new lands probably following herds of animals or in search of food.

These early people were not quite like modern day humans.  They were smaller, and they only had about 2/3 the brain that modern man had.  But, they were tool users.  They had stone axes and knives and were hunters as well as gatherers.

These early people had fire!

The discovery and use of fire was very important to early man for many reasons.

First, they discovered most animals are afraid of fire.  So a campfire gave some protection to the group or tribe.

Second, they could camp in better locations.  A fire allowed them to pick where they camped.  They no longer had to look for trees to climb into or rocks and cliffs to shelter under.

Third, it kept them warm.  This goes with the second reason.  They could move into colder climates and hunt the animals that lived there.  They could then return to their campfire to warm up.

Fourth, it was a healthier way of life.  Cooked food is less likely to carry disease

Fifth, it was a more social grouping.  They could now gather in larger groups, feeling safer and more secure.  This allowed them to exchange stories, and just talk to other people.

There were other reasons that having a fire was an improvement in their lives.  Can you think of any?

There have been other discoveries of Homo Erectus, most notably the one found near Peking (Beijing) China, which is called the Peking Man.  Archeologists have also found tools weapons from this time period in other places, which gives a better understand of how they lived and where they lived.

The Journey of Mankind

Interactive Map Quiz


Our thanks to Anthropologist, Dr.  John J.  Shea
(Ph.D., 1991, Harvard University)

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