Monday, 13 May 2013

A prehistoric garden where I learn how to make fire

Just how easy is it to make fire the old fashioned way, the ancient way? Turns out it's easier than you think so long as you have the right tools.

There are two ways to get fire started- creating sparks and using friction. With the right sort of stones struck together the sparks come easily. You need to have a special mushroom that grows on trees. It's large and highly flammable. Inside the mushroom it's fibrous and a spark or two that hits it will, with a tiny puff of breath, start to glow and then to flame. You add some dry fine straw and blow judiciously et voila! It catches fire and away you go.

Can't find the right stone or fungus? No problem. 

Make a small bow with wood and string. Twist a hard stick of wood (thin) into the string and then pop the end of the stick into a small depression in a softer piece of wood. Sore hand? Just use something hard on the free end of the stick to protect your hand. Pull the bow back and forth; it should automatically turn the stick in the hole in the other piece of wood and it can do this consistently and rapidly once you get your action right.

I came close to getting smoke with the second method but other visitors to the Jardin de la Prehistoire were quite successful in producing large flames.

It's an educational visitor centre in the town of Auneau, 70km south of Paris. On the first Sunday of the month at 3pm there is a guided tour from a charming, knowledgeable man.

He explained the time line and where prehistory fits in. We learnt how to pick stinging nettles without being stung and that you can make a nutritious soup and poultices, bandages from this plant. Other plants were discussed for their nutrition or medical properties used in prehistoric times.

The rushes were used for spear throwing and building huts.

It was interesting to be inside a facsimilie of a prehistoric home and see how cleverly people had used the resources from their environment. It was all very sustainable back then. Bee hives were raided first by bears and then by the humans who were spying on the bears for just that purpose. Stones rubbed together made flour from seeds, honey and nettles were added to make little cakes.

Later on the visit we had the opportunity to try cakes made in this way but I wasn't that hungry. There were displays of weapons for hunting and fighting, various types of habitation, burial customs, making clothes from animal skins. I already knew quite a bit of the information but there was still new stuff to discover.

As we turned a corner we were confronted by a model of an Auroch - ancient and very large beasts which were not bison. They took a bit of skill and luck to bring down for food and proved rather dangerous to tackle.

The tour lasted 2 hours. It's clearly a place popular with school groups and the educational style suits all ages. Apart from learning about plants etc it's also an archeological site. You can visit  for more info and to watch fire-making videos.


Romilda Gareth said...
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James Terrier said...
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Asifur Rahman said...
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Jane Smith said...
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