Imagine what the world would be like today if we didn't know how to use fire. It wouldn't be that much different, you might think - we use electricity to cook our food, heat our water and give us light. But electricity hasn't been around forever. As little as 100 years ago, people had to use fire to do all the things mentioned above. If it wasn't for fire, our great-grandparents would still have been living off a diet of berries and raw meat, and having ice-cold baths, possibly in streams and rivers. Important inventions such as the steam train would not have come into being, iron and other ores could not have been melted for use, and the industrial revolution would not have taken place. As you can see, the discovery of how to use and create our own fire was an extremely important one, one that greatly affected the way people live today.
The fact that man-made fires are much hotter than natural bush fires has been used to proved that the animals the fossils belonged to were not burnt in a bush fire. The fossils found belonged to antelope, baboons, warthogs and even Australopithecus robustus. This final finding caused speculation that Homo erectus was cannibalistic, but due to the fact that only a finger bone was found, it is more likely that the body was just in the region of the fire coincidentally. Apart from using fire to cook meat, Homo erectus man probably also used it to scare away wild animals from his living area and to provide warmth.
Although, as mentioned above, there is evidence of the fact that H. erectus made use of fire up to 1,5 million years ago, there is no evidence that man actually made fires until about 15 000 years ago. It is thought that before then, man made use of natural bush fires, caused by lightning. They did this by placing carcasses in the way of a spreading bush fire, and then collecting them afterwards once the fire had passed, and had cooked their meat for them. (This would not have resulted in the best cuisine, by today's standards!). It is thought that the next step in fire usage was to 'capture' a natural fire in an area, and then feed it to keep it going. These fires, however, were probably put out by rain very often, and may have been quite a distance from the place where those who used it lived. Thus, Homo erectus learnt to use smouldering sticks to start his own fire near to where he lived, under an overhang or in the mouth of his cave, where it would be protected from rain and the elements.