How to Start a Fire in Ancient Israel

While researching a novel about Naomi from the Book of Ruth, I’m coming across all sorts of interesting facts. Last week, I needed to know how they started a fire. I couldn’t imagine there’d actually be any research on the topic, but I looked anyway. Just in case. I was wrong. (Imagine that!) What I discovered was an article written by Hebrew University of Jerusalem researchers entitled The Earliest Matches.

An earlier archeological discovery in Israel’s Ramat Bet Shemesh showed how the Israelites made fire without matches or a lighter. Archeologists, led by Anna Eirkh-Rose, excavated a limestone slab that seems to have been used in ancient fire-making. The slab is punctured with two sockets. A groove connects the sockets. To start a fire, a flammable material would have been placed in one of the sockets and probably in the groove. Then a cylinder would have been rotated in the other hole.

The archaeologists at Hebrew University of Jerusalem discovered the “matches” which they claim are the world’s oldest known fire starters: clay and stone cylinders from the sixth millennium B.C. These cylinders would have been used with the fireboards described above. Scratches on the boards suggest that the cylinders were quickly spun using a bow. This business of fire-making in ancient Israel was similar to the wooden drills, fireboards, and bows used by other ancient civilizations (An advanced method of rubbing two sticks together!).

Pictures of the cylinders and fireboards can be found in the article, The Earliest Matches, here:

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