November 28, 2022

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Magdalena Kawalec-Segond: Man-ape has definitely been cooking since…760,000. Years

We have already been called – and somewhat rightly so – for example a naked, carnivorous and smiling monkey. Because in these and many other ways we differ from our living cousins. However, for more than a decade, our understanding as a cooking ape has gained popularity in paleontology and anthropology. Israeli scientists have just found evidence of cooking from at least 780,000 years ago. So it remains like Homo erectus. This takes us back to the recorded history of the controlled use of fire for food preparation by about 600,000 years. Since years.

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The originator of the “cooking monkey”, the so-called culinary hypothesis of human evolution, is Renowned author of books on human evolution is Richard Wrangham. He said about it in a book published in Poland entitled “The Struggle for Fire” (M.Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human2009).

He had no evidence for it from fossils, only physical anthropology. There are changes in the craniofacial features of our ancestors (smaller muscles and smaller teeth, essential for chewing), no doubt already present inH. erectuswhich is – according to Wrangham – “monkey cooking” for four mains.

In fact, we can see that pre-humans started eating softer food. In order to get it, you have to either carefully break the food into small pieces – with the risk that you’ll hit yourself here, and have someone come out from behind and take the mashed food (the food is hard to get out of your mouth) – or throw it into a fire.

Throwing a piece of food into the fire – preferably on purpose – provides incredible profit, and therefore an evolutionary advantage – healthier and more fertile offspring. You don’t have to chew for hours and waste energy on it. We are not threatened by pathogenic microorganisms and parasites from food (or at least less threatened). From the same amount of food we get more calories, because we digest them faster, and therefore cheaper in terms of energy. Ergo, the brain has plenty of room to grow, which can already be seen in the skull of H. habilis, before Homo erectus.

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However, some paleontologists still reject Wrangham’s “cooking hypothesis”. Microscopic traces of wood ash accompanying human fossils were not older than a million years ago, and that man then used fire intentionally, or even more so, to process food, and not, for example, to keep warm or protect himself from wild animals, it was impossible to prove. Absolutely. In science, on the other hand, different hypotheses can be proposed, but the theory or part of the theory becomes what can be proven.



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According to Israeli scholars, Steinhardt Museum of Natural History, Tel Aviv University in an article published in the journal “Nature Ecology & Evolution”:Although cooking is considered an essential component of the evolutionary success of the genus Homo, influencing various biological and social aspects, it is not known when intentional cooking began.” Today they have the proof of that in their hands thanks to two things.

First, it is fortunate that the site of Gesher Bennot Ya’akov is located in Israel in the early Middle Pleistocene (780,000 years ago) and preserves evidence of hominin activity associated with hearth and large numbers of freshwater fish remains (>40,000). Secondly, thanks to the fact that over the past two decades, extremely modern technologies for the study of fossils have been developed, in particular various isotopic analyzes and other studies.

The latter concept means playing Sherlock Holmes bent over some fossilized remains in order to deduce the biological, physical and chemical changes they underwent in this particular case, if they were preserved in this form and not in any other. In our particular case it was important to determine why in the area associated with the so-called phantom hearths (conglomerates of burnt flint fine artefacts) we find the fossilized remains of only two species of cyprinid fish, where in a lake, different species were fossilized. And why, in the vicinity of the so-called hearth, we do not find the bones of these large matches, but the teeth of the so-called. There are no gutters. And finally, did anything unusual happen to these fish teeth before they became fossilized.

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Size and strain analysis using X-ray powder diffraction (caution!) provided evidence that these teeth were exposed to a controlled temperature (below 500 °C), suggesting that these fish were heat-treated (possibly baked) and eaten on the spot. It is the oldest evidence that an earlier man, pardon the joke, preferred grilled fish to sushi.



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This archaeological site also proves of great use both in the Middle Pleistocene and in the beginning times of our civilization (Like Anatolia Catalhoyuk from 9.5 thousand years ago) There were habitats near lakes or other bodies of water. Above all, they provided an incredible abundance of food. So big that you can pick and choose just what’s easy to catch or … tastes good.

Already 10 years ago An international team led by scientists from the University of Toronto and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has discovered that African Homo erectus used fire in a controlled manner (possibly in the form of small fires at the cave entrance) mentioned above a million years ago, during the early Acheulean culture. In the journal “PNAS” it was then possible to read that burnt plant remains, nearby animal bones and stone tools were found in the Wonderwerk Cave in South Africa. Animal bones were found near the alleged fires, but there was no strong evidence that they were placed in the fire to cook the meat.

The ever-evolving modern methods of studying artifacts are fascinating. If we had ever had it, we might have caught a “cooking monkey” burning its fingers, pulling a hot fish out of the fire, at a time when Homo sapiens was still out of the question. In collaboration with the Academic College Urani, the Israel Institute for Oceans and Lakes Research, the Natural History Museum in London, and the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, the Tel Aviv researcher was able to do just that today, using several modern research methods. .

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Nor should the study prove the enormous importance of fish in the lives of prehistoric people for their diet and economic stability. In addition, the fish populations of the ancient Hula Lake and their changes over time are reconstructed. extinction, possibly due to hominins eating the two largest species of cyprinids. However, the Pleistocene was a period of great climatic changes between successive ice caps, especially dynamic in those spaces that were not covered by a large ice sheet for thousands of years.



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Cooking is defined as the ability to process food by controlling the temperature at which it is heated, and covers a wide range of methods. Without a doubt 780,000 years ago, our ancestors controlled fire and heat-treated fish for consumption. The history of cooking has expanded its scope by 600,000 years. Years about which we know very little. It’s time to keep searching.

I have the impression that paleontological and archaeological research methods allow, for example, Remains of bread found in a 14,000-year-old stone oven, also found in Israel. Years (therefore before planting), Or cheese on clay sieves 7,000 years ago in Kocaeli This is just the beginning of great discoveries. The history of the kitchen is the history of man. It turned out to be very hairy. And while his species name doesn’t refer to him, he’s not necessarily indiscreet. Because you need a real brain to come up with the heat treatment of food.




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