The occurrence of fires in many types of woodland and forested environments would have benefited human populations in several different ways. In addition to greatly increasing the mobility of the human groups, the occurrence of fire in many types of forest would have led to substantial improvements in the economic potential of the environment. Improvements in both the quantity and nutritional quality of the food supplies available to herbivorous animals would have increased not only the total carrying capacity of the environment for these species, but also the relative growth-rates and reproductive rate of the animals. In certain cases it is likely that burning would have increased the overall ‘productivity’ of ungulate populations by a factor of × 10. Similar improvements may have been achieved in the yields of certain vegetable food resources. The potential impact of these environmental changes on the population numbers and settlement patterns of human communities is discussed, and it is suggested that the adoption of systematic policies of forest burning by hunting and gathering populations may have led in certain situations to the emergence of more complex patterns of man-animal relationships which were closely similar to those of traditional ‘herding’ or ‘pastoralist’ economies.