Maybe prehistoric man didn’t know that heating food could destroy its nutrients and natural enzymes, but it turns out earliest man and woman were raw foodists.
Even modern medical doctors, including a former Surgeon General, Dr. C. Everett Koop agrees that our modern diet (the Standard American Diet) is responsible for cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. After studying the dental plaque of 1.2-million-year-old hominin, the earliest recorded human species, recovered by a research team in Sima del Elefante in northern Spain, it was determined that our ancestors didn’t cook their food.
It could be argued that human beings didn’t discover fire until 350,000 years ago, though this is contested by researchers, but whatever the reason, 1.2 million years ago, food consumed was largely raw meat from animals, uncooked starch granules indicating consumption of grasses, pollen grains from a species of pine, insect fragments and a possible fragment of a toothpick, here and there.
Researchers from the excavation point to the lack of the use of fire in Sima del Elefante, though records of fire being used were found at some very early sites in Africa, and later at the Spanish site of Cueva Negra, and at Gesher Benot Ya’aqov, Israel, that put the discovery of fire to around 800,000 years ago.
These sites taken collectively have caused researchers to assess that fire was discovered as a cooking technology approximately 800,000 to 1.2 million years ago, revealing a new timeline for when the earliest humans started to eat cooked food.
The timeline corresponds well with other research which suggests that our ability to consume cooked foods was coupled with evolutionary advances.
Dr. Karen Hardy, lead author and Honorary Research Associate at the University of York and ICREA Research Professor at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, explains the findings:
“Obtaining evidence for any aspect of hominin life at this extremely early date is very challenging. Here, we have been able to demonstrate that these earliest Europeans understood and exploited their forested environment to obtain a balanced diet 1.2 million years ago, by eating a range of different foods and combining starchy plant food with meat.A provocative theory put forth by by Harvard biologist, Richard Wrangham, is that fire defines humankind. He says without fire, we couldn’t cook food, and without cooked food our brains could not develop to their current state – allowing culture, language, and a host of other skills.
This new timeline has significant implications in helping us to understand this period of human evolution – cooked food provides greater energy, and cooking may be linked to the rapid increases in brain size that occurred from 800,000 years ago onwards.
It also correlates well with previous research hypothesizing that the timing of cooking is linked to the development of salivary amylase, needed to process cooked starchy food. Starchy food was an essential element in facilitating brain development, and contrary to popular belief about the ‘Paleodiet’, the role of starchy food in the Palaeolithic diet was significant.”
It is true that human beings underwent an impressive and unprecedented increase in brain size around 1.8 million years ago. Some suggest this had to be paid for with added calories either taken in or diverted from some other function in the body. Many anthropologists think the key breakthrough was adding meat to the diet.
Others argue that it isn’t the calories we consumed but what happened to them once we put the min our mouths. If food was cooked already, the body didn’t have to expend as much energy breaking it down for digestion and assimilation of nutrients.
People tend to have very strong opinions about food, but one thing is provable beyond a doubt. When we discovered fire, and started cooking our food, it seems our intelligence quotient exploded. There may have been other contributing factors, but scientists look largely to human beings making this notable advancement for our modern intellectual capacity.
About the Author
Christina Sarich is a freelance writer, musician, yogi, and humanitarian. Her insights appear in magazines as diverse as Weston A. Price, Nexus, Atlantis Rising, and the Cuyamungue Institute, among others. She was recently a featured author in the Journal, “Wise Traditions in Food, Farming, and Healing Arts,” and her commentary on healing, ascension, and human potential inform a large body of the alternative news lexicon. She is also a staff writer for Waking Times.