- b : a device that activates an ignition system (as in an automobile) <put the key in the ignition>
The control of fire by early humans is said to date back to either Homo erectus or very early Homo sapiens: that is, hundreds of thousands of years ago, based on archaeological evidence of hearths. Smoldering plants and trees, or any source of hot coals from natural fires is arguably the first experience humans had with controlling fire. Fire by friction is the most commonly used method for making primitive fires. Ancient techniques for starting friction fires include the hand-drill, the bow drill, the fire plough and the pump drill. The flint and steel method, where hot sparks are shaved from a piece of steel or iron onto suitable tinder and fanned into flames, was also used by primitive cultures. These methods have been known since the Paleolithic ages, and are still commonly in use by certain indigenous peoples.
Before they had been away from home one moon, Andon signified to his mate that he thought he could make fire with the flint. They tried for two months to utilize the flint spark for kindling a fire but only met with failure. Each day this couple would strike the flints and endeavor to ignite the wood. Finally, one evening about the time of the setting of the sun, the secret of the technique was unraveled when it occurred to Fonta to climb a near-by tree to secure an abandoned bird's nest. The nest was dry and highly inflammable and consequently flared right up into a full blaze the moment the spark fell upon it. They were so surprised and startled at their success that they almost lost the fire, but they saved it by the addition of suitable fuel, and then began the first search for firewood by the parents of all mankind.
This was one of the most joyous moments in their short but eventful lives. All night long they sat up watching their fire burn, vaguely realizing that they had made a discovery which would make it possible for them to defy climate and thus forever to be independent of their animal relatives of the southern lands. After three days' rest and enjoyment of the fire, they journeyed on.
The Primates ancestors of Andon had often replenished fire which had been kindled by lightning, but never before had the creatures of earth possessed a method of starting fire at will. But it was a long time before the twins learned that dry moss and other materials would kindle fire just as well as birds' nests.