Firing Up the Social Brain

John Gowlett

in Social Brain, Distributed Mind

Published by British Academy

Published in print April 2010 | ISBN: 9780197264522
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734724 | DOI:

Series: Proceedings of the British Academy

Firing Up the Social Brain

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The mastery of fire is a great human achievement which has helped shape our species. This chapter addresses the wider importance of fire, arguing that it is part of a fundamental motor of human evolution, deeply tied into our biology as well as economy and technology, and indeed a motor of the social brain. It seems likely that fire was involved in this nexus from a very early period, probably back to the time of increases in human brain size in the early Pleistocene, and indeed that it may have been a necessity for the subsequent physical evolutionary and social developments in Homo. Fire may be associated so strongly with imagery, imagination and symbolism in the modern world as a result of its primary role in effecting transformation of materials, and acting to link various strands of material culture.

Keywords: human evolution; fire; social brain; biology; Homo species; material culture

Chapter.  9589 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Psychology

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