More evidence for possibly early cooking - this would be far older then previously known.
i'd be careful with that. dr. wrangham was one my professors when i was an undergrad there and i was a concentration major in his human evolutionary bio department. he and all the others on the floor refer to it as a cooking hypothesis..."hypothesis." it all fits very nicely but like most things in evolutionary biology, it is difficult to prove.
i don't mean to pop your bubble but if there's one thing that they really drilled into our heads...it's that you have to be extremely critical and quick not to jump to conclusions in bioanthro. heck, dr. wrangham told us that himself when he presented his hypothesis to us.
Yes, I did. Not only that, Neanderthals used cooking. Not only that, it could be much earlier than 1 million years ago. I have listened to a lecture from a Harvard biology lecturer, who explained how cooking food changed our brains, guts, behavior, etc.
Do you know what cooking does to food? It changes the chemical structure of proteins so they are digested in a completely different way. Not only it makes the food more easily digestible, it changes food in a way that is it processed differently by our bodies.
He argued that cooked carrot and raw carrot are digested differently and we cannot even compare those two processes. He said that all those "caloric values" are completely bogus. According to him, if you eat 2,000 calories worth of raw veggies, our bodies do not process them as 2,000 calories.
You can watch his lecture online.
It's important to keep in mind that use of fire and control of fire (ability to start fire at will) are not the same thing:
PNAS March 14, 2011
On the earliest evidence for habitual use of fire in Europe
Wil Roebroeks and Paola Villa
"Our review of the European evidence suggests that early hominins moved into northern latitudes without the habitual use of fire. It was only much later, from ∼300,000 to 400,000 y ago onward, that fire became a significant part of the hominin technological repertoire."
If we had the ability to start fires at will, ice age Europe would have been an excellent place to demonstrate that! Yet the evidence is that we did not.
I believe the most parsimonious interpretation of the evidence is that earlier humans used fire when it was available -- natural fires would have been reasonably frequent in hot African grasslands -- but didn't have the ability to start fires at will until much later, when the evidence for regular fire usage (hearths, home bases) becomes far more frequent.
It seems like a stretch to assume that people who took nearly a million years to figure out how to sharpen both sides of a rock (Oldowan vs. Acheulean industry...yes, I'm oversimplifying to make a point, but not by much) had figured out how to make fire at will. It's quite difficult to do so even with a prepared flint, steel, and tinder from a tinderbox, let alone with rocks and wood you found laying around.
I just finished a write up on the case for and implications of a "cooked" ancestral dietary ("Primal Chefs" and believe that use of controlled fire may have begun far earlier than even 1 million years ago.
Modern studies of hunter gatherer groups often find little evidence of their fires, and even limestone caves (an important source of well preserved archaeological sites) do not last forever (~400,000 years).
I do not think that use of controlled fire (and thus cooking) was the only factor that led to the emergence of more advanced hominids (Homo Erectus and Ergaster), but rather that it was part of a suite of technological advances (wood and stone tools, clothing, etc.) that created a feed-forward process of development that continues to this present moment.
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