An outdoor fireplace is a place for building fires outside of the home. Similar in construction to an indoor fireplace, an outdoor fireplace is usually added to a stone, brick, or concrete patio. It often consists of a firebox and a chimney. As with indoor fireplaces, an outdoor fireplace requires cleaning and maintenance to keep it looking and working at its best. While an outdoor fireplace may not need to be cleaned as often, it will need to be cleaned regularly in order to keep it reasonably tidy and maintained and to remove ash build.
While indoor fireplaces are traditionally designed for heating, an outdoor fireplace is usually used for cooking. Many are designed to double as wood-fired ovens that allow homeowners to create meals such as pizzas and casseroles. Entire outdoor kitchens can evolve from the fireplace.
An outdoor fireplace can simply be a decorative element, which allows homeowners to enjoy a crackling fire while entertaining in the backyard. Some municipalities may prohibit purely decorative fireplaces (e.g. Toronto)
The use of fire for heating & the earliest ancestor of the modern-day fireplace predated the emergence of Homo Sapiens. Homo erectus invented fire based heating systems well before Homo sapiens.
The oldest discovered signs from over a million years ago in Africa, are fire-reddened sediments and charcoal. However, increasing evidence points to the reign of Homo erectus advances. There is the Swartkrans Cave in South Africa, where million-year-old stone tools and ash have been found at the same site. There are also sites in China that contain hearths of clay, silt, and limestone dated to more than a half million years ago. Fire is also known to have been used as far back as 382,000 years ago in Qesem Cave near Tel Aviv in Israel.
Homo sapiens inherited and improved upon fire technologies, and eventually incorporated it into homes. By circa 50,000 years ago, homes of such construction were fairly common. Some were merely extensions of caves, others were propped up with mammoth tusks, while others still were formed from bent over sticks. The hearth however, was a common feature. But it differed from modern day hearths. It was often a simple shallow bowl in the ground. Smoke moved upwards, passing through openings in roofs or collecting in the living space, forcing people of the era to choose between cold fresh air and smoke filled warmth.  
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Other Outdoor Fireplace Options
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- "A Guide to Outdoor Heating" outdoor-heating-guide.com Accessed 14 January 07
- City of Toronto prohibition of open air burning Accessed May 26, 2007
- "Colonial America's Pre-Industrial Age of Wood and Water". Penn State University.
- "Outdoor Fireplace".
- "HVAC" (PDF). University of Kentucky.