In 1867 the Abbé Bourgeois found at Thenay, near Pont-levoy (Loir-et-Cher), in a marly bank belonging to the most ancient part of the middle Tertiary formation, fragments of silex which bore traces of the action of fire. This fire had not been lighted by accidental causes, for, says Mr. DeMortillet (Le Prehistorique, p. 90), the causes of instantaneous conflagrations can be only volcanic fires, fermentations, and lightning. "Now, in the entire region there is no trace of volcanic action, and neither are there any traces of turfy or vegetable deposits capable of giving rise to spontaneous inflammations--phenomena that are always very rare and very exceptional, as are also conflagrations started by lightning. Well, in the Thenay marls, the pieces of silex that had undergone the action of fire were found disseminated at different levels, and this could not have been a simple accident, but was evidently something that had been done intentionally. There existed, then, during the Aquitanian epoch, a being who was acquainted with fire and knew how to produce it."

Mr. De Mortillet supposes that this being was an animal intermediate between man and the monkey, which he calls the anthropopithecus.

This precursor of man made use of fire for splitting silex and manufacturing from it instruments whose cutting edge he perfected by means of a series of retouchings produced by slight percussions upon one of the surfaces only.

I shall not enter in this place upon a discussion as to the existence of an anthropopithecus or Tertiary man, whom every one does not as yet accept, but will confine myself to giving the facts as to the use of fire in the remotest epochs, incontestable proofs of which exist from the time at which Quaternary man made his appearance. How this was discovered is indicated, according to Aryan tradition, by the Vedic hymns. The ancestors of the Aryans, these tell us, had seen the lighting dart forth from the shock of black clouds. They had seen the spark that fired the forests issue from the friction of dry branches agitated by the storm. They took a branch of soft wood, arani, and passing a thong around a branch of hard wood, pramontha, they caused it to revolve rapidly in a cavity in the arani, and thus evoked the god Agni, whom they nourished with libations of clarified butter, soma.

The Pramontha, became the Prometheus of the Greeks, the Titan who stole the fire, and it is from the Sanscrit Agni that is derived the Latin Ignis, "fire," and the Greek Αγνος, "pure," and the Agnus Dei of the Christians, who purifies all.

Orientalists generally agree that the sign which is seen under the forms The Production Of Fire 392 i1 , The Production Of Fire 392 i2 , or The Production Of Fire 392 i3 , on a large number of objects of Aryan origin is a sort of sacred hieroglyphic, representing the arani or svastika, formed of two pieces of soft wood fixed by four pins in such a way as not to revolve under the pressure of the Pramontha.

This process of producing fire is also found among a host of more or less savage peoples, and especially in India, where, during the last month of the great feast of sacrifices, the sacred fire must always be kindled three hundred and sixty times a day with nine different kinds of wood that are prescribed by the rite.

Fig. 1 shows the arrangement in use among the Eskimos, and Fig. 2 that employed by the Indians of North America.

In 1828 there still existed at Essen, in Hanover, an analogous apparatus designed to produce an alarm fire. This was a large, horizontal, round wooden bar whose extremities pivoted in two apertures formed in vertical posts, and which was provided with a cord that was wound around it several times. Several persons, by pulling on the ends of this cord, caused the bar to revolve alternately in one direction and the other, and the heat developed by the friction lighted some tow that had previously been inserted in one of the apertures in the post.



It is certain that the alternate motion must have been produced directly by hand before being effected by cords. This simpler process is still in use in Tasmania, Australia, Polynesia, Kamtschatka, Thibet, Mexico, and among the Guanches of the Canary Isles, who are supposed to be the last representatives of the inhabitants of Atlantis, which sank under the waters at the close of the Quaternary epoch.

Chamisso, who accompanied Kotzebue in his voyage, describes it as follows: "In the Caroline Islands, they rest a vertical piece of roundish wood, terminating in a point, and about a foot and a half in length and one inch in diameter, upon a second one fixed in the ground, and then give it a rotary motion by acting with the palms of the hands. This motion, which is at first slow and measured, is at length accelerated, while at the same time the pressure becomes stronger, whereupon the dust from the wood which has formed by friction and accumulated around the point of the movable piece begins to carbonize. This dust, which, after a fashion, constitutes a match, soon bursts into flame. The women of Eap are wonderfully dexterous in their use of this process."

The Production Of Fire 392 14b


Fig. 3 shows another manner of obtaining fire by rotation which is employed by the Guachos, a half savage, pastoral people who inhabit the pampas of South America. Longitudinal friction must have preceded that obtained by rotation. It is still in use in most of the islands of Oceanica (Fig. 4), and especially in Tahiti and in the Sandwich Islands.