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When life first appeared, it was single-celled and simple, and such organisms are called today. Below is a diagram of a typical prokaryotic cell. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

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Siberian volcanism (which formed the ) is considered to have been the main event. The Chinese volcanism of ten million years earlier was a prelude, with other minor events between them, in a series of blows that left virtually all complex life devastated when it finally finished. To give some perspective on the volcanism's magnitude, when and caused the , it is estimated that the eruption totaled 160 cubic kilometers of ejecta. The Siberian Traps episode lasted a million years and, although it was more of a lava event than an explosion (although there were also plenty of explosions), the total ejected lava is estimated at one-to-four cubic kilometers.

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One key feature of Mesopotamian life resulted from wars and migrations: in cities, social organization along family or clan lines became obsolete, and professional associations became prominent. Mesopotamian cities absorbed invader cultures while also adapting to them, and ancient Mesopotamian civilizations became multicultural. The first cities also had many problems to solve, such as sanitation, in which the water supply and sewage system had to be separated. Also, in a pattern that continues to this day, upriver settlements usually flushed their sewage into the rivers, as they no longer had to concern themselves with it, but it obviously affected downstream civilizations. In many poor nations today, as major rivers enter the oceans they are virtually open sewers as they become increasingly polluted as rivers pass settlements and cities. Also, is generally considered to be the origin of many epidemic diseases, and the close quarters of urban-living often meant epidemics that decimated urban populations; the in 430 BCE, during the , was one of the earliest recorded epidemics. Filth, pollution, and crowding were major problems for early cities, and life expectancy was always lower in the cities than in the hinterland. Life expectancy in cities did not rise to the hinterlands' until the 20th century. Surplus population from the hinterland repopulated all cities in history until the 20th century.

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Did the control of fire to , ? Or did merely use it to begin dominating the world? Was cooking the seminal event in the appearance of humans? Those questions may not be definitively answered in my lifetime, and led to the somewhat uncertain title of this chapter. Highly transformative developments coincided with the appearance and dispersal of , which was a radical break from all that came before – biologically, technically, and culturally – and strongly implies great cognitive enhancements. I believe that the control of fire and cooking would leave deep cultural and biological impacts on the human journey, and because barely changed during its nearly two-million year tenure on Earth, both in biology and in Acheulean artifacts, I favor Wrangham’s hypothesis, at least until the Next Big Finding. Just as Einstein said that and that his theories would one day become obsolete, but that their best parts would survive in the new theories, I suspect that significant aspects of Wrangham’s hypothesis will live on in successor hypotheses, and other scientists have been following Wrangham’s lead.

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If habilines began to control fire two mya, one thing is certain: the australopithecine Tesla who banged the first rocks together that fashioned a stone tool, and who was able to continue doing it and eventually taught others, probably via active demonstration and their observation, could not have imagined that his/her invention would lead to a relatively giant descendant (or cousin of a descendant) that slept on the ground, controlled fire, and would quickly migrate to the ends of Earth and traverse distances that were incomprehensible in australo-Tesla’s time. That relatively quick series of innovations, never before seen on Earth, gave birth to a creature that would have simply been unrecognizable to that ; it would have appeared magical. There have only been a few subsequent Epochal Events in the human journey, and like the first one(s), they were all energy events above all else, and were all dependent on humans gaining the technological prowess and social organization that enabled them to exploit a new energy source, which was dependent on their increasing mental feats. Each time, the human reality after the Epochal Event was to the humans who lived immediately before it (, , ). Also, the events and their aftermaths became far more dramatic each time, in shrinking the event’s timeframe and shortening the time until the next Epochal Event, and the energy levels greatly increased each time, and by an order of magnitude for the most recent event.