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Did the discovery of cooking make us human?

Posted on March 9, 2010
by Beth S.


Cooking is something we all take for granted but a new theorysuggests that if we had not learned to cook food, not only would we still look like chimps but, like them, we would also be compelled to spend most of the day chewing.

Without cooking, an averageperson would have to eat around five kilos of raw food to get enough calories to survive.

The daily mountain of fruit and vegetables would mean a six-hour chewing marathon.

It is already acceptedthat the introduction of meat into our ancestors' diet caused their brains to grow and their intelligence to increase.

Meat - a more concentrated form of energy - not only meant bigger brains forour ancestors, but also an end to the need to devote nearly all their time to foraging to maintain energy levels.

As a consequence, more time was available for social structure to develop.'Accident'

Harvard Professor Richard Wrangham believes there is more to it than simply discovering meat.

He thinks that it is not so much a change in the ingredients of our diet, but the way in whichwe prepare them that has caused the radical evolution of our species.

"I think cooking is arguably the biggest increase in the quality of the diet in the whole of the history of life," he says."Our ancestors most probably dropped food in fire accidently. They would have found it was delicious and that set us off on a whole new direction."

To understand how and when our bodies changed, weneed to take a closer look at what our ancestors ate by studying the fossil records.

Our earliest ancestor was the ape-like Australopithecus.

Australopithecus had a large belly containing a biglarge-intestine, essential to digest the robust plant matter, and had large, flat teeth which it used for grinding and crushing tough vegetation.

None the less, it was Australopithecus that...
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