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“...Fire has been an essential feature of the human experience for millennia.  Hominins invented and developed the hearth structure to contain fire so that they might eat when hungry, warm themselves when cold, and have a place to congregate when dark.

During the Neolithic Revolution, when humans began to settle permanently in small communities, residents gathered around the fire to eat together, rehearse stories, and cultivate relationships.

Accordingly, over a long period of time the hearth contributed to human socialization. The location provided a hub for social activity, and the fire became a symbol of nascent communities. 

The hearth provided the space around which collective gatherings, feasts, and festivals brought the members of the community together in solidarity. Moreover, the hearth tied the community as a collective unit to the divine through the rituals performed there. With its adaptability to serve various purposes and to embed various aspects of communal life into the activities that took place around it.

Eventually, as these new communities grew larger, the hearths – the private fires of individual families or the public ones serving the collective group – represented the distinct character of each social unit. Each hearth might differ in its dimensions and decoration but, whatever its appearance, it reflected the social identity of the group. Beyond just providing a place for warmth, protection, and cooking, the hearth organized the early Greek communities according to what Olympia Peperaki calls “a model of relatedness.” The spatial arrangement of the new hearth rooms, centrally located within the home and in the early Greek palatial context, emphasizes the fire as the focal point for social interactions of those within the community, as well as its role in the reception of outsiders. It provides, in Peperaki’s words, “a common point of reference and a necessary single focus for all movement and all activity.” For early Greek communities, therefore, before its association with refuge, the hearth was the nucleus of practical and socio-communal activities...”

Excerpt from essay by Nicholas Cross, Queens College, CUNY

“The word Hearth stands for something more than just a fireplace. We speak of 'hearth and home'. The word 'hearth' shares its ancestry with 'heart', just as the modern Greek for 'hearth' is kardia, which also means 'heart'. In Ancient Greece the wider concept of hearth and home was expressed by the oikos, which lives on for us today in economics and ecology. The Latin for hearth is focus - which speaks for itself. It is a strange and wonderful thing that out of the words for fireplace we have spun "cardiologist', 'deep focus' and 'eco-warrior'. The essential meaning of centrality that connects them also reveals the great significance of the hearth to the Greeks and Romans, and consequently the importance of Hestia, its presiding deity.”

 - Stephen Fry

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