Lighting a candle or making a fire in the fireplace is something we do a lot these days. It is cold, it is dark (at least here in the north) and we need light and warmth. Also, today we see candlelight, a burning flame or a light fireplace as something very cozy and atmospheric. Throughout history, cozy and atmospheric wasn’t always the reason for making fire. Discovering fire gave us humans so many new possibilities, but also several new dangers. We could now cook our food, become warm in front of the flames and scare dangerous animal away. We could now light up what had previously been dark and unknown areas. Our homes could also catch fire.
Ever since the discovery of fire, people have been dependent on the heath for fire to make food and keep warm. Before matches and sulfur, various methods were used to make fire. The oldest tool to make fire is the spark tools. When two stones strike each other, sparks can form. The discovery of special types of rock that easily produce sparks, combined with knowledge of highly flammable substances, provided the basis for the first lighters. Two pieces of pyrite, a mineral found almost all over the earth, have been used to make fire since the Stone Age. Early improvements consisted of replacing one piece of pyrite with flint, quartz or other hard stones. After the discovery of steel, the combination flint and steel (fire steel) became common. This way of making fire was common throughout Europe and Asia the last 1000 years before the matches came.
A piece of flint (T15679) used to strike fire, dated to the Neolithic or the Bronze Age.
Photo: Ole Bjørn Pedersen, NTNU Vitenskapsmuseet, CC BY-SA 4.0
The fire stones would gradually become part of the daily life and also part of the outfit, one could say. For a long period of time people walked around with a fire stone or a belt stone attached to their belts. A knife was also usually part of what you would wear on a daily basis so you would always have a fire stone and the iron with you, being ready to make fire whenever needed. By rubbing the piece of iron against the belt stone, sparks were created, and thereby the possibility of making fire.
These types of fire stones, that were meant to be worn in a belt, were usually made of quartzite. They are most commonly elliptical in shape with a groove along the edge. Grooves can be seen on the stones in the pictures to the right below. The grooves made it possible to attach the stone to a frame made of bronze. The frame made it possible to attach the stone to a belt. The frame could be decorated with animal heads or other nice decorative details. In the two first pictures below you can easily see the bronze frame still attached to the stones.
From left to right, top to bottom:
1: T16364: Photo by Ole Bjørn Pedersen, NTNU Vitenskapsmuseet
2: T10166: Photo by Per E. Fredriksen, NTNU Vitenskapsmuseet
3: T14101: Photo by Ole Bjørn Pedersen, NTNU Vitenskapsmuseet
4: T4535: Photo by Ole Bjørn Pedersen, NTNU Vitenskapsmuseet
5: T13377: Photo by Ole Bjørn Pedersen, NTNU Vitenskapsmuseet
6: T19604: Photo by Ole Bjørn Pedersen, NTNU Vitenskapsmuseet
7: T18978: Photo by Ole Bjørn Pedersen, NTNU Vitenskapsmuseet
8: T2072: Photo by Ole Bjørn Pedersen, NTNU Vitenskapsmuseet
License: CC BY-SA 4.0
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