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Campfire Stories

October 1, 2014

Campfires may have played a big role in bringing early humans together.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

A !Kung Bushman, sporting a Calvin Klein hat, tells stories at a firelight gathering in Africa's Kalahari Desert

A !Kung Bushman tells stories at a firelight gathering in Africa’s Kalahari Desert. (Polly Weissner/University of Utah)

Did fire help humans bond? I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

[storytelling around fire]

Around a campfire in the Kalahari Desert, a !Kung  woman shares a story about a long journey and strange foreigners. The story’s unique, but the experience of sharing around a campfire is universal and primal. University of Utah anthropologist Polly Wiessner studies how human society may have changed when fire let us extend our days.

POLLY WIESSNER (University of Utah):

You  extend the day by four or five hours and produce time and space that cannot be used for any productive activities.

HIRSHON:

In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, she compares the conversations Kung people have during the day with those at night, around a fire. She theorizes that fire drew people close and helped catalyze the social bonding that defines us as a species today. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.